The Q&A Archives: Evergreen Survival in a Drought

Question: I have an evergreen tree (I believe it is a Douglas Fir but can't be sure) that was planted in January of 98. We are currently experiencing a severe drought in this region. The other day I noticed my tree was tunring brown. I began watering it (again, watering was restricted due to the drought). I have watered it everyday. It has gotten browner. There are green tints on part of the tree and the very top is still green. Some of the branches have turned brittle while others are still flexible. There is no sign of bugs. Yesterday I gave the tree some Miracle-Gro that listed evergreens as one of the plants. Can I save my tree? (It was a gift and I am heatbroken over this.) Should I continue to give it Miracle-Gro, and if so how often. What is the probablity that I can save my tree?

Answer: Fertilizing will not help a tree in drought stress. Unfortunately, a daily light sprinkling encourages surface rooting where the soil dries out the fastest. The best way to water is to apply it as a deep, slow soaking about once a week or even every five days when it is hot. Be sure to cover the entire root zone which may extend past the dripline of the tree. The rule of thumb is an inch or two a week from the hose or the sky. Your goal is to maintain a moist soil without it being sopping wet. You may need to dig down at first to see if your watering actually penetrated any distance at all, especially now that the weather has been so difficult. The deep watering encourages the roots to grow deep where the soil moisture is more constant. Also, maintain about two inches of organic mulch to help conserve moisture and keep the soil cool. This type of watering should be done for all newly planted trees for the first year, with added watering in times of dry weather for the next two years. To be honest I can't predict if your tree will make it or not. I hope so.

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