Forseeing water woes

Water bill will reflect tree's loss and re-leaf

Do you have a big tree that lost leaves to frost, and grew a new set? Both sets were made of water, literally. That has serious implications for your garden, lawn and pocketbook.

Lately, we've been praying for rain and made a mantra of "Check the soil, we bet it needs water" as we answer clients' and friends' questions.

Even a midsized tree like this yellowwood (below: Cladrastis lutea, one of the species that in many locations had its first leaves stripped by frost in 2012's unusual spring) can draw hundreds of gallons of water per day from its root zone. That zone is everything under its branches and at least a few feet beyond -- roots often go half again as far as branches.

Start looking now for signs of drought stress in understory shrubs and gardens, and in lawn near trees -- smaller than normal foliage, foliage quick to wilt on a hot day, grass blades that don't rebound after being pressed underfoot, etc. Plants in and just outside the tree's drip line, which is the ground beneath the widest branches, may face the worst competition. A tree's water-absorbing roots tend to be concentrated there.

Water to help at-risk plants now. If your household budget can't bear the strain of so much extra water, think ahead to gaps you may need to fill in case of a midsummer collapse.


According to an Environmental Protection Agency report: Nationwide, landscape irrigation is estimated to account for almost one-third of all residential water use.