ARTICLE

Cedar Rapids asks residents to help water trees

Many city-owned trees stressed by dry conditions

A number of young trees planted along Edgewood Road south of Highway 30 in Cedar Rapids are dead or dying on Thursday, July 12 2012. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
A number of young trees planted along Edgewood Road south of Highway 30 in Cedar Rapids are dead or dying on Thursday, July 12 2012. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

Amid what the city of Cedar Rapids is calling a drought, the city is putting out the official call for people to water the trees on their property.

In a news release Wednesday, city leaders said staffers are watering new trees to keep them alive, and that slightly older trees -- two to three years old -- are "beginning to show signs of drought stress."

This comes as the city is placing a real emphasis on greenery within the city.  The budget for fiscal year 2013 calls for spending $150,000 on the purchasing and planting of up to 900 trees throughout the city -- a sharp increase from the previous budget of only $70,000.

"I can only remember one other drought that was this dry, and it was not this dry this early in the year," said Bill Hornett of Peck's Green Thumb in Cedar Rapids.  "It's really a drought."

Hornett, who has been with Peck's for 32 years, said the process of keeping a tree healthy during a drought requires water -- but also patience.

"With established trees, if you are watering your lawn and keeping it green, you're probably fine," said Hornett.  "But if your grass has gone dormant, you should be watering your established trees and watering around the drop line to where the outer branches are."

Hornett agreed that plenty of trees are under "stress" right now.  He recommended people should water trees about once every two weeks, watering "real slow".

On the city's west side, homeowner Tom Kleopfer was out taking care of his backyard trees.

"I have a bunch of evergreen trees in the back and I water them about every day," said Kleopfer, who said he has lost some of his trees from previous winters.  "It's very dry.  It's terrible."

City leaders suggest "long, slow watering" for being effective when watering trees.  Some of their options:

  • Use irrigation bags, some of which can hold 20 gallons of water and slowly release the water over the course of a few days.
  • Place a five-gallon bucket with several small holes near the bottom.
  • Use a garden hose near the base of the tree for a small stream of water to trickle out for a few hours.

A tree survey from 2007 counted between 40,000 to 50,000 "street trees," with more than half classified as ash or maple.

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