2005-09-02 / Community

Parks Commissioner: Water Your Trees

New York City Department of Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe today urged New Yorkers to water the street trees in front of their homes and businesses. The recent heat poses a direct threat to the viability of New York City’s trees. New York streets are lined with approximately 500,000 street trees—its parks are home to 2 million more.

“Trees are vital to the City’s environmental health—they provide oxygen and shade, filter pollutants, and lower the temperature. They also provide a home for wildlife and raise property values,” said Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe. “Now they are in grave danger, and New Yorkers must come to their rescue.”

Water is the essential ingredient to sustaining plant life, and prolonged episodes of heat pose a tremendous danger to trees’ capacity to survive by evaporating their water resources. An inspection of the City’s trees two weeks ago revealed that scores of them are beginning to show signs of heat-caused water depravation. Leaves are wilting, turning brown, even falling off.

The Parks Department’s Forestry and Horticulture division recommends that New Yorkers water the street trees in front of their houses and businesses first thing in the morning, when the sun is not as intense and there is less evaporation. Watering in the evening is the next best option, although it does leave plants more vulnerable to fungus and rot.

Street trees should receive 15 to 20 gallons of water a week, although young or newly planted trees should be given 25. One effective technique is to poke multiple small holes in the bottom of a 20-gallon plastic waste basket, place it in the tree pit, and fill it full of water, allowing the water to slowly seep out. Shrubs should be watered with 5 to 10 gallons a week, and young or newly planted shrubs, 15. (The standard mop bucket holds 5 gallons.) The water should be poured slowly into the soil to prevent runoff and allow the water to percolate all the way to the roots—a 5-gallon bucket should take about 10 minutes to empty (more if the soil is compacted).

Other factors that can affect water saturation are weeds and compacted soil. Removing weeds creates more root space, increasing maximum water uptake.

Also, keeping the soil loose allows more water to reach the roots.

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