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Drought is not limited to desert climates, as anyone in the Midwest knows.

In fact, even Michigan, with its Humid Continental Climate, has made the list of states experiencing drought this spring.

This comes as a welcome relief to many on the lakeshore who lost their homes and property to high water levels last year—but for those living inland, sprinklers are running some serious overtime. Since the end of May, the U.S. Drought Monitor reports that West Michigan has fallen into the category of severe drought, with a year-to-date rain deficiency of 6 inches.

Conditions like this are not only hard on lawns and gardens, but also on trees. The U.S. Drought Monitor classifies the different degrees of drought in the following order:

  • Abnormally Dry
  • Moderate Drought
  • Severe Drought
  • Extreme Drought
  • Exceptional Drought

Under severe drought, crop yields suffer, irrigation becomes difficult, and even mature trees are placed under stress. This means that any newly planted trees are especially vulnerable, as they are still acclimating to their new environment in the first place.

This is when supplemental watering becomes vital.

Plenty of homeowners water their gardens regularly, but few think to water their trees. A “low and slow” approach to watering your trees, as titled by gardening guru Joe Lamp’l, will make a huge difference in your trees’ health and immunities during dry periods. This technique involves placing the hose or sprinkler close to the root system so that the water can provide a deeper soak to the surrounding soil. Because roots want to reach for water, giving the soil a deep soak will encourage them to grow downward into the earth, rather than staying just below the surface. And while shallow roots might not seem problematic at first, the upper layers of soil are always the first to dry out.

Repeating the “low and slow” process once or twice a week (totaling about an inch of water per week) will keep your trees hydrated during droughts, and will help young trees get established in their root systems. The key principle is to water at a frequency and duration that will reach the deeper layers of soil and consequently draw roots deeper, where moisture is retained for longer. That way, when dry weather drags on, your trees have already been trained to drink from a more sustainable depth.

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