Effective watering techniques critical for healthy trees

With a historic drought and a city filled with 24,000 trees, finding a solution to maintain Claremont’s lush urban forest has been a challenge for everyone. High water prices, inadequate irrigation systems and, in some cases, a question of responsibility for watering city trees have resulted in the endangerment of what would otherwise be healthy trees.

Let there be no confusion: he wellbeing of city trees is a long-term partnership between Claremont residents and the city. Per Claremont’s Municipal Code, homeowners are responsible for watering city-owned trees located on their property.

Throughout the summer, city staff will be performing inspections to identify drought-stressed trees throughout Claremont, issuing door hangers and follow-up letters to property owners reminding them to do their part to maintain the leafscape.

With the ongoing debates regarding appropriate deep watering methods, the city began testing the waters, so to speak, of a new method and they are welcoming Claremont residents to do the same.

Earlier this month, the city began implementing a water bag pilot program. To date, 20 water bags have been placed alongside 20 trees in the Village. The bags are engineered to simplify the watering process by providing a slow release of water, targeted to reach the root system.

While the water bag method may help ensure the survival of newly-planted street trees, more mature trees throughout the city may require a different method of deep watering.

“Larger city trees that are not on an adequate irrigation system, or are not deep watered by adjacent property owners, will need water injected into their root zones to avoid being stressed by the drought,” says Mark von Wodtke. “That is why the Sustainable Claremont Tree Action Group is advocating emergency mobile watering, using a tank on a trailer to provide water to the root zone of trees or fill water bags for deep watering.”

The water bag program is in its infancy, with staffers using the city’s existing power washing tank to fill the bags. However, if the program proves to be successful, a new water tank and trailer may be in the city’s future.

In the longterm, however, Mr. von Wodtke feels the health and sustainability of future street trees would benefit from the use of compost and biochar to retain both moisture and nutrients in the tree’s root zone. The city of Thousand Oaks is using biochar for their street trees and Mr. von Wodtke feels this would help Claremont trees flourish.

“Biochar costs less than water bags and stays underground. It is not visible and won’t be subject to vandalism or deteriorate,” explains Mark von Wodtke. “In fact, biochar helps build a better a soil ecology to sustain healthier trees.”

In an added effort to help sustain the health of Claremont trees during the hot summer months, the city offers the following tree care tips:

Deep water your trees to soak the soil and the roots. Place a hose on a low drip around the tree and let the water run for half an hour or longer. Or use a watering bag for small or young trees for a quick fill and slow release. Deep watering is best for the tree’s health and encourages deeper root growth.

Apply a layer of mulch around the base of the tree to retain moisture. This keeps the soil moist for longer periods of time.

Conserve your water and your spending by setting irrigation clocks for early mornings or late afternoons to avoid water evaporation.

Lawn irrigation may not be enough for your trees! Remember to deep water with a hose if your trees look thirsty.

Use your gray water. That water going down your drain can be used to water outside.

For information on watering or watering bags, please call the city of Claremont’s Community Services Department at (909) 399-5431.

—Angela Bailey




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