1000th Tree Cared for in the Drought

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We’re in the middle of a drought, so to conserve water, we shouldn’t water trees, right?

Actually, watering trees is one of the best things we can do while we wait for the rains to return. Keeping our trees healthy helps us maintain and build our water supply here in Los Angeles. When it rains – which happens sometimes even in the middle of a drought – a mature tree captures thousands of gallons of rainwater in its canopy and root zone, sinking that rain into the aquifer and storing it for later instead of letting it run down our paved streets and sidewalks into the ocean, where it’s no longer available as freshwater for our use. And even when it’s not raining, trees shade and cool the city by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit – a huge difference when we’re hit by heat waves!

In response to the drought, TreePeople kicked off a drought response tree care campaign on March 7th. Because of drought watering limits, our city’s trees are stressed – and TreePeople is here to help. We’ve been visiting parks, assessing the needs of the trees in each site, and working with more than 600 community members to care for and water trees. On April 29th, at our seventeenth successful event, TreePeople and our volunteers cared for our thousandth tree! Since then, we’ve cared for nearly a hundred more!

Our thousandth tree is a coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia), a protected tree in California, and is roughly eight years old. It resides in Griffith Park, at a little spot called Shane’s Inspiration, a wheelchair-accessible playground developed for children of all abilities.

Alex Villalta, our Forestry Operations Coordinator, is thrilled with the volunteer response so far. Everyone who has worked with TreePeople on the drought response campaign has done so altruistically: they want to do something significant to help in the drought, and they want to be accountable and act as stewards for our city’s trees. Our volunteers, Alex explains, are “the most amazing part of it all.” And he’s enthusiastic about the campaign’s future: “It’s impossible to say that we’re not going to hit 2000 before long.”

Want to help out? You can follow Alex’s best practices for caring for trees in your yard and neighborhood during the drought:

  1. Take out competition: Weeding around the area of the tree ensures that water and nutrients go to the trees and not the plants that encroach on them.
  2. Build a berm: A berm is a short wall or “bumper” made out of soil and sod that encircles the tree. It helps concentrate water to the root ball instead of letting it flow away from the tree.
  3. Mulch, mulch, mulch: Mulching around the trunk slows evaporation, keeping the soil moist for the tree; helps regulate the soil temperature by acting as a blanket; and blocks the sun from weeds so they can’t photosynthesize and grow. Plus, Alex explains, “as mulch breaks down, it provides nutrients to all the microorganisms in the soil,” which in turn keep the tree healthy.

It’s especially important to focus on younger trees, because their roots don’t yet reach down into the water table and they need a little more assistance.

Plus, we’re always looking for more volunteers! You can visit our website to register as a volunteer and help out at events like Alex’s. Working together, we can keep our trees healthy even during our long-term water crisis!

Elizabeth Weinberg is TreePeople's Social Media Specialist, a DC-based writer, and a lover of trees.