Woody plants across the state suffered from continued heat and drought. Nebraskans should pay particular attention to trees and shrubs and thoroughly water them if they begin to show signs of leaf wilt, discoloration or drying, especially at leaf edges, says Amy Seiler of the Nebraska Forest Service.
"A dry winter, minimal spring rains, record high temperatures and low summer precipitation have put extreme stress on trees this summer," she adds. "Challenges of this sort also increase their susceptibility to insects and disease later on. Trees are able to obtain moisture longer than most other plants due to deeper roots so symptoms tend to be more delayed and some symptoms may not appear until months or even years later."
Newly planted trees are particularly at risk during prolonged dry periods, but even trees that have survived harsh conditions in the past can decline or even die from extended drought and heat.
To check soil moisture in a tree's root zone, Seiler recommends pushing a long screwdriver into the soil a foot or two out from the trunk. If the ground is dry and in need of watering it typically is difficult to push the screwdriver in more than a few inches.
If the soil is dry, Seiler says, "Deep, thorough watering will provide the most benefit to trees because it promotes healthy root systems."
One of the best methods for deep, slow watering is to coil a soaker hose around the tree several times from the trunk to the drip line and let it run until the soil is moist to a depth of 8-12 inches. Five gallon buckets with holes can also be used to slow-irrigate the soil under trees.