Best way to start a local drought: Plant trees!

It never fails.  The year you undertake a large scale tree planting project sets records for heat and low rainfall.

A day after receiving the email from a Kansas customer featured in the previous post I called another Kansas customer to check in on his ambitious tree planting project.  In a region suffering from severe drought conditions his area has been especially hard hit.  He heard on the news that rainfall in Kansas City this year is at its lowest level ever; his farm has received 3 inches less rainfall than Kansas City has!

Murphy’s Law of tree planting: A storm that dumped 3 inches of rain passed not 8 miles away, but barely managed to spit on his farm.

He jokingly told me that one “plus” of drought conditions is that weed competition is minimal (tree planters are always “glass is 3/4 full” people!).  The downside is that he’s spending all the time he would be spraying for weeds filling a water tank and trying to water at least the trees in drier, upland, sandy areas that are most at risk of moisture stress.

I started to mention how big a difference tree tubes make in survival during drought years, but he cut me off.  He said that as soon as he planted the tree in spring and before he could get tubes on them the deer were already browsing them.  Does were bedding down right amongst the newly planted seedlings, and he had to hustle to get them tubed before they got wiped out… and it’s not even an area of the property with a particularly high concentration of deer compared to other locations.

His exact words:  “I don’t how the heck you can even grow a tree these days without tree tubes.”  His trees wouldn’t have lasted a week.

How bad is the drought?  He has been pumping water from a few wells on his property, filling a 300 gallon tank to water his trees.  Those wells are 35 ft deep, and have nearly run dry.

He is seeing lower survival rates that I would generally expect with tree tubes, but will still end the season with at least 70% success, and probably closer to 80%.  Without tree tubes his trees wouldn’t have even made it past spring due to the deer.  But even if they had mortality under these conditions would have been nearly 100%.

Tree tubes:  The best drought insurance you can buy.

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