Tree Talk

Driest winter in three decades challenges Taos tree community


Walking outside Wednesday (Feb. 7), the weather felt like spring instead of winter. Yes, this winter has had some freezing nights, but overall it's been more spring-like and dry. This soil dryness damages the trees' root systems.

The mountains are bare and the trees are challenged. We can help our tree community by watering our trees every two weeks on a warm day.

Here's how:

Slow watering is the key. When temperatures are warm at about 10 a.m., get out the hose and place it at the drip line of the tree. The drip line is at the end of the branches. A slow trickle of 20 minutes will allow the water to soak into the ground. Move your hose around the tree from north to east to south to west; watering each spot for 20 minutes. It may take 80 minutes to water one tree. Large evergreens and newly planted trees this past year need more water.

Temperatures start to drop by 4 p.m. in the afternoon, so you should drain the hose. If you don't have a hose, four to six buckets of water will add the moisture the tree needs.

If you figured out this method of watering, you can water five trees per warm day. Make a chart to help you with the tree watering schedule. Keep in mind that we have fluctuating temperatures from 55-60 degrees in the day, which pulls moisture out of soils and plants and 5 degree at night, which freezes everything.

Here are some tips about winter tree stress:

Mulching trees throughout the growing season reduces water loss, improves root development and keeps soil cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

Tree roots grow two to three times their height. Twenty-foot trees may have 60 feet of roots. This root growth area is the critical root area we are trying to protect and develop. Remember, planting the right tree in the right place is essential to the life of the tree. Trees are long-lived organisms that benefit our lives for many years.

Trees that have winter damage may not show any signs in the spring. They may leaf out and flower because they are using stored food energy. Once temperatures rise, trees may lose leaves, have branches die back and even die.

Watering during this driest winter in decades may be challenging, but it may save your trees.

Think of trees like our bodies. Healthy eating and living mean we have more good reserves to fight off many pests and diseases that attack us.

Trees with the proper care can thrive in our fluctuating temperatures and drought conditions.


Any tree questions, please contact the Taos Tree Board at

Paul Bryan Jones, An ISA Certified Arborist, an ASCA Consulting Arborist, and chair of the Taos Tree Board.