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Extension Agent: Some trees are dying because of drought

Aug. 30, 2011 at 3:30 a.m.

A farmer looks up at a dead Post Oak at his farm in Montgomery. Watering your yard's grass does not water your trees - you don't get it deep enough.

By Joe Janak

Oh, the rain that fell last week was a welcome sight. Most received about an inch or less and while it'll do some good, we need a lot more.

I was called out to look at several sites recently to evaluate why trees are dying. The main reason was drought.

And, with one inch of rain, we still need to continue to water trees unless it rains again, soon.

You see, one inch of rain, whether from above or a sprinkler, will soak in about 4 to 6 inches deep. Most tree roots are in the 12 to 18 inch deep zone in the soil, so it'll take another two inches of rain or watering to get it down to the tree's roots.

That's why watering your yard's grass does not water your trees - you don't get it deep enough.

Typically, a yard sprinkler will only put out to of an inch of rain equivalent inches per hour. And since most sprinklers run for about 30 minutes per site two to three times a week, we're barely keeping the grass alive applying to 1 inch per week, which never goes deeper than 2 to 3 inches into the soil.

This frequent yet shallow watering of grass causes the grass roots to grow even closer to the surface, worsening the drought effect on the grass and doing nothing to help out the trees.

Watering for grass should involve applying one inch of rain equivalent water at one time so it soaks in 4 to 6 inches deep. If water runs off the yard before one inch is applied, stop watering for an hour or two and return the same day, applying one inch totally to drive the water down deeper.

Using drip or soaker hoses to water trees is the best advice. Snake the soaker hoses back and forth under and just outside the canopy of the trees. Prior to watering, push an 18 inch long pencil size steel rod or extra long screwdriver down into the soil. You'll feel resistance when you hit dry soil.

After watering for an hour or two, the rod should easily go down 12 to 18 inches deep, indicating that you finally got water to the tree's roots. Then move the soaker hoses to the other sides of the tree.

You don't want to water by the trunk of the tree and most of the tree's roots are 1 to 3 times the height of the tree away from the trunk, so water just inside the area where the branches extend and on outward past the dripline to at least up to two times away from the trunk, if you can.

The health and persistence of these trees is our goal and watering periodically to soak deep is of major importance.

IT'S ALL ABOUT TREES. AND MORE SYMPOSIUM

Early registration is on-going for Victoria County Master Gardener Association's Gardening Symposium, on Sept. 24, featuring keynote speakers Heidi Sheesley, of TreeSearch Farms in Houston and Jerry Parsons, of San Antonio, retired horticulturist known for many years of gardening expertise.

Sheesley, renown gardening expert, will start the symposium at 9 a.m. featuring her "Totally Tenacious and Texas Tough Plants," which will also be for sale later in the day.

Parsons, the luncheon speaker, will conduct a session on recommended trees for the area, enlighten us about old plants made new and conclude the symposium with a presentation on fall gardening.

Titled "It's All About Trees. And More," this comprehensive garden event, held at Victoria Educational Gardens Pavilion, 283 Bachelor Drive, across from the control tower at Victoria Regional Airport, will include concurrent events led by 10 gardening experts.

Recommended varieties and care of trees will be emphasized including additional sessions on planting, training and pruning trees, and managing pests on trees as well as presentations on rainwater harvesting, indoor and outdoor container gardening, Xeriscape and Earthkind gardening, backyard wildlife habitats, and butterfly and hummingbird gardens.

Early registration is $50 per person, due Sept. 14, which includes admission to the symposium, plant sale, luncheon, plus snacks and refreshments. After that, the fee is $60 per person. Also scheduled is a silent auction and raffle.

A gardening symposium flyer may be downloaded from vcmga.org., or picked up at Texas AgriLife Extension Service - Victoria County office, 528 Waco Circle. For information, call 361-575-4581. The symposium is coordinated by Victoria County Master Gardeners and Texas AgriLife Extension Service - Victoria County. Master gardeners is a nonprofit educational organization formed by Texas AgriLife Extension Service - Victoria County with members in Victoria and surrounding counties.

COTTON STALK DESTRUCTION FIELD DAY

Two field meetings will occur on Wednesday, highlighting two applied research trials conducted to evaluate different aspects of cotton stalk destruction. The first stop is at 9 a.m. on U.S. Highway 87, 2.8 miles south of Farm-to-Market Road 1090. This site contains a trial on timing of 2,4-D application following stalk shredding.

The second will be held at 10:15 am on state Highway 35, one mile west of Farm-to-Market Road 1679 to display different herbicides and rates on shredded stalks, unshredded stalks and following shredding and stalk pulling.

For additional information, contact Stephen Biles, extension agent - IPM at 361-920-1138.

Joe Janak is a Victoria County extension agent.

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