The dry year in some parts of Iowa hurt crops but also other growing things. Iowa State University Extension Forester Tivon Feeley says it may look like autumn’s coming early. Where drought’s affected trees, they are the maples in particular and the oaks, which all like some shade. The leaves wilt and their edges turn brown, and some of those symptoms have shown up.
Feeley says if you put a lot of time and work into special landscaping, you could be in line for bigger headaches: Most of the trees native to Iowa have adapted to our climate changes, and will make it through a drought fine. It’s the exotic species brought in from other parts of the world that suffer the most, and if it stays dry you may need to start watering them. He says if you’re going to help out a tree, make sure you water within the “dripline.”
The dripline is the edge of that area the branches reach out over, where the water drips down during a rainfall. Put the hose inside that, and let it trickle slowly, but steadily — he recommends giving it hundreds of gallons. Then shut it off and let the ground soak it up until it feels dry to the touch, just like the soil in a houseplant.
You don’t want to overwater it by giving it too much water too often, but he says you should give it a lot “up front,” and then let it dry. This time of year is a good time to add protective mulch around the base of a tree.
While yard owners may enjoy grass right up to the tree, the expert says it’s better for your tree to have a thick layer of shredded bark or woodchips around its base that will hold in moisture and remove grass that competes with its “root zone.” With that stress relieved, he says you’ll have a healthier tree.