News Flash

Parks and Recreation

Posted on: September 8, 2022

Street trees need our help to survive hot, dry weather

Thirsty Tree illustration

Summer heat can be hard on everyone, but did you know it can KILL trees? The next time you cool off under a leafy boulevard tree, remember that street trees need your help to survive soaring temperatures. In Missoula’s dry climate, trees need regular, deep watering during hot weather, according to Marie Boggess, Parks and Recreation Urban Forestry Program Specialist.

Boggess says well-maintained street trees not only provide shade to make homes and businesses more comfortable, but they also increase property values and filter air and water pollutants. While boulevard trees provide these benefits and many more all year long, the cost of watering this valuable resource is just pennies a day. If a residential lawn yellows a bit during these hot summer weeks, it will spring back to life when the weather cools. Trees, on the other hand, will be permanently damaged by lack of water during hot weather. It is vital that urban trees receive supplemental water when temperatures rise.

Boggess offers these tree care tips:

  • Mature boulevard trees need deep watering two to three times per week to help ensure their continued survival. Normal turf grass sprinkling usually does not provide enough water to keep trees healthy during dry months. Trees compete with your lawn for available water.
  • Make sure the water is being used effectively and efficiently by running sprinklers low and slow near the edges of the tree's canopy. Watch for runoff and adjust flow to conserve water and get water to the roots where it's needed most.
  • To conserve water and limit evaporation, observe your scheduled watering days and water in the early morning and after dusk when it’s cooler.
  • All trees need water, but newly planted trees require extra moisture and care. Water them every two days during their first three summers. Watering at the edge of the canopy slowly and deeply will encourage proper root growth for the stability and structure of the tree.
  • Well-cared-for trees increase your property value. According to research collected by the Arbor Day Foundation, healthy, mature trees add an average of 10 percent to a property’s value and having large trees in yards along streets increases a home’s value from 3 percent to 15 percent. Landlords can preserve their property’s value by reminding tenants to water boulevard trees.
  • Trees also cool the average ambient air temperature under their canopy by 10 degrees. The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.   

Mulching will increase the moisture-holding capacity of your soil. An organic wood mulch, layered about 2 to 4 inches thick and spread as wide as the tree's drip line will hold the moisture longer, inhibit weed growth and help moderate soil temperatures. Pull the mulch away from the trunk of the trees at least 4 to 6 inches to deter fungal diseases.

Remember, Missoula Municipal Code 12.32.070 requires property owners to maintain the trees on the boulevard; Parks and Recreation will assist residents as much as resources allow. Call the Urban Forestry Division at 406-552-6253 or visit www.missoulaparks.org for more information, tree care tips and ordinances related to trees in the City right-of-way.


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