Drought spurs urgent need to water dying trees

A prolonged rainfall shortage and one of the hottest summers on record prompted a warning Thursday that residents should hand-water trees and shrubs.


“Already we are seeing effects, especially on trees along roadways and parking lots,” said Roy Simkins, the chairman of the Augusta-Richmond County Tree Commission. “Some trees are already dead and numerous others are under severe stress.”

Although many homes have sprinkler systems, they are often not capable of providing enough water to sustain trees through such severe drought, he said.

“People should not rely on sprinkler systems to get the job done. Trees especially should be hand watered – provided at least 2 inches of water per week (8 inch deep soil saturation) until the drought cycle is ended by a period of substantial rainfall,” Simkins said.

The most effective approach is an infrequent, heavy watering, which is better for the trees than frequent, lighter waterings.

“Immediate action needs to be taken if these trees are to be saved. Older, larger trees are no exception,” he said. “A large tree can transpire well over 100 gallons of water per day.”

The month of August included 11 days of 100-degree or higher temperatures, setting or tying four records. By comparison, there were no 100-degree days in August 2010.

Just 1.19 inches of rain fell during the month, according to the National Weather Service. The sparse rainfall contributed to a deficit that has been building since spring.

Anyone needing information on caring for trees during drought can contact Simkins at (706) 722-0272; Barry Smith, of Columbia County Community Services, (706) 868-3484; or Sid Mullis, Augusta-Richmond County Extension office, (706) 821-2349.