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Concerns turn to trees as dry weather continues

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A year after an extreme drought, Indiana is once again suffering through an abnormally dry month, and experts say trees are in desperate need of water before it gets even worse.

It’s Andrew Hart’s job to Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, and as director of Urban Forestry for KIB, that job is growing more difficult by the day.

“We have tree planting projects planned for September, but we’ve decided to postpone a good bit of those and divert our energy into watering and mulching trees,” Hart said.

That’s because, after a wet start to the summer, Central Indiana is closing in on the seventh driest August on record, with 19 straight days of no measurable rain. The drought monitor categorizes the region as ‘abnormally dry’, which is one step away from moderate drought.

“It’s something we have to watch because when you start to see dry conditions now when it’s typically dry, they could persist,” said Al Shipe with the National Weather Service. “Then things could get worse.

“This is a tree that’s definitely showing signs of stress,” Hart said, pointing to a large tree with curling and wilting leaves.

Though some signs are dead giveaways of dying trees, Hart says almost all trees need watering right now. He says the easiest way to know is by testing the soil with a screwdriver. All you have to do is try to stick it in the ground.

“It should be at least seven or eight inches (long),” Hart said. “If I can only go about an inch, then that means the soil is too dry.”

Small trees less than five years old need about 15 gallons of water a week. Fill a five-gallon bucket three times, or simply run a hose near a tree for 15 or 20 minutes.

For older trees’ slow release, soaker hoses are best. Hart says the key to watering trees is that they need a lot of water at once.

“The tree roots are going down deep so they need a deep watering once per week as opposed to a light watering every day or every few days,” Hart said.

Though this year still hasn’t approached last summer’s extreme drought, Andrew says many of the trees haven’t recovered, meaning help is needed now more than ever.

“There’s likely an implication that we’ll see even more trees become stressed and, very likely, die,” Hart said.

Keep Indianapolis Beautiful is looking for help watering all the trees in public spaces around the city. For more information on how to get involved, go to the KIB Facebook page, or follow KIB on twitter @kibiorg. The group has even created a hashtag (#thirstytrees) to help remind others of the need to water trees.

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