For over two decades, the City of Turlock has worked hard to earn the recognition of being a Tree City USA member by creating a Community Forest Program and holding an annual Arbor Day event with local school children. The current drought, however, is making city staff work even harder to maintain the thousands of trees that not only beautify Turlock but also improve air quality.
Out of the 10,000 trees in Turlock's urban forest, 200 are expected to die this year, more than double the number of trees the city has lost annually for the past three years. Almost a quarter of the trees lost this year will be from the city's northeast basin due to irrigation problems that started in early July when two non-potable wells broke down, said Parks, Recreation and Public Facilities Superintendent Erik Schulze.
Forty-nine trees on the northeast pathway died because they went without water for a significant time. In order to save the remaining trees, City staff have been hand-irrigating the trees from trucks filled with non-potable water.
The trees in City parks have also been hit hard from the drought. The City has already lost 45 park trees, with 50 showing signs of severe stress, said Schulze.
There are a variety of trees planted in different areas of town and some have fared better than others during the drought.
"The trees that really do well are Chinese Pistache, which are in a lot of downtown subdivisions and grow to be 20 to 50 feet tall. The Red Leaf Maple was hit the hardest," said Schulze.
The City will replant everything lost this year, with plantings scheduled to start Sept. 14 and go on throughout the fall.
Although the City's tree situation seems grim right now, it could get worse.
"If we have to go to the next level of water restrictions, we'll see a totally different city," said Schulze.
For residents looking to save the trees on their property, here are a few tips to follow during the drought:
· Mature trees: Water 1-2 times per month deeply and slowly using a soaker hose or drip system toward the edge of the tree canopy (do not water at the base of the tree).
· Young trees: Water 2 times per week, create a small watering basin with a berm of dirt.
· Do not over prune your tree during the drought.
· Add 4-6 inches of mulch around your tree to help retain moisture.