Starve the lawn, not the tree

Posted on | October 1, 2014 | 3 Comments

Tree Failure Report. Source: University of California

Photos: University of California Tree Failure Report Program

It’s encouraging to see residents of greater Los Angeles cutting back on lawn irrigation and/or switching to less thirsty ground-covers. But there has been an unintended consequence. Civic-minded homeowners have been under-watering — or not watering — their trees. While deciduous trees register the stress palpably enough that many homeowners are alerted to the need to irrigate, most evergreens can’t wilt. Rather, their leaves furl and their needles droop. Formerly turgid and healthy limbs become brittle and vulnerable to boring insects and the diseases that the bugs too often carry. Stress a big tree enough and it becomes prone to what monitors of our urban canopies call “tree failure” (an interesting term for an outcome that is almost never the tree’s fault, but that of those managing it). A treeless Los Angeles would be a harsh, hot and bleak place. To prevent that from happening the Urban Forest Council has issued this brochure. Click here for more about common causes of tree failure, and here, here and here for an excellent three-part guide to planting trees from horticulturist and Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden fellow Barbara Eisenstein.


3 Responses to “Starve the lawn, not the tree”

  1. Leigh Adams
    October 1st, 2014 @ 11:22 pm

    I’m so glad you’re posting this. I’ve been thinking long and hard about what it would mean to lose our trees and I think it would be disastrous. I was drawn to this area 30 years ago specifically because of the trees. Both Pasadena and Altadena had a mature canopy that called to me. I see that canopy diminishing through ignorance, apathy, drought and disease. It will not be the arboreal dream site that once called me here, no, sadly, it will not.

  2. John Fleck
    October 6th, 2014 @ 8:36 pm

    Thanks, a nice reminder that I really need to do the newspaper version of this here in Albuquerque, where we’re seeing more and more dead neighborhood garden trees.

  3. Pasadena Adjacent
    October 8th, 2014 @ 8:43 pm

    I’m glad to see some protection being given trees. I’ve lost three of my ornamental plums to continuous drought. This year I said no way, no more. And if I get fined for my trouble, so be it.

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