TREES OF CURTIS PARK: When altering landscape, top priority is irrigating existing trees

The March rains were a welcome relief after a dry January and February. But even with these rains, Curtis Park residents are becoming more aware of California’s water shortage and rethinking the traditional use of turf in their front and back yards.

Lawns require regular watering during Sacramento’s hot summer months and, with recent installation of water meters, residents are more mindful of the cost to keep their lawns green. More yards are converting from lawn to drought-tolerant plants, patios, decomposed granite, decorative rock and occasionally artificial turf.

Yet careful consideration of the existing trees in the yard should be a top priority. With an existing automatic irrigation system, consider changing to low-pressure heads. Drip irrigation, black soaker hose and Netafim are other readily available water delivery systems. Turf removal will reduce the tree’s water requirements. However, you will need to closely monitor soil moisture because the tree regularly received water every time the turf was irrigated.

When the watering system is radically altered, especially during the hot summer months, branch dieback may occur or, in extreme cases, the tree may die. In the first year during the hot dry months, no more than a 20 percent reduction in the amount of water will allow time for the tree to develop deeper roots. Due to variations in soil types, use a moisture meter or dig down to ensure the tree is receiving the proper amount of water. Don’t wait until the leaves wilt and fall off. As roots head down, watering can be further reduced but monitoring is key to avoid wasting water.

During the lawn conversion process, care must be taken to minimize damage to the existing root system. Why? Because depending on the severity of the damage, there could be branch dieback or the tree could die. If your landscape project requires severing roots 2 inches in diameter or greater, an arborist should be on-site to ensure the root pruning will not jeopardize the tree’s stability.

Just as important are the absorbing roots that take up the water and nutrients. Avoid trenching within the dripline, which is an imaginary line on the ground directly below the outermost tips of the branches. Trenching severs a significant portion of the absorbing roots leading to a decline in the tree’s health. An arborist should also be consulted if trenching, compacting or altering the soil grade will occur within the dripline. Also, artificial turf should not be installed within the dripline.

No more lawn means less competition for water and nutrients, which will improve the health and vigor of the trees in your yard. Remember to be aware of the tree’s water requirements and its root system.

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