OSU’s Ryan Desantis Offers Tree and Shrub Care Tips for Unpredictable Oklahoma Weather and Drought

Listen to KC Sheperd talk with Ryan Desantis about caring for your trees and more during winter and drought.

As Oklahoma weather has been more unpredictable than usual his winter, KC Sheperd, Farm Director, is visiting with Oklahoma State University professor of natural resource ecology and management, Ryan Desantis, about how to best care for your trees and more during this time of the year.

Many different factors go into how to correctly care for your trees, Desantis said, including location and tree species.

“What I usually like to think of in terms of watering at a dormant time of year like in January would be to stick with what has been done for the past several years to several decades for that particular tree,” Desantis said.

Even though much of the state has seen warmer temperatures earlier in January, Desantis said watering a tree in the winter during drought can do more harm than good. Toward the end of winter, when there are longer periods of warmth, Desantis said it is okay to start watering trees, but doing so in the middle of winter when a warmer few days come along can “shock” the tree.

Desantis talked about how to evaluate your trees to make sure they are in good condition.

“If you have got a cedar or a pine that has orange or brown foliage and there is no green, it is pretty safe to say that tree is dead,” Desantis said. “It is too late to save that tree.”

While a deciduous tree will shed its leaves annually, Desantis said, cedar and pine trees will not drop their foliage all at once.

For Oklahomans who are having trouble with their shrubs due to the drought, Desantis said it depends on the species and form of reproduction.

“When we get temperatures or precipitation regimes that are significantly different, then they do have trouble adapting,” Desantis said. “Some of them will die, but I’d say some of them- you probably want to figure out what the species is and whether or not you can propagate it by sprouting. Basically, try to focus more attention on other parts of the plant that you might be able to bring back.”

Hawthorn trees are popular across the state of Oklahoma, but Desantis said they are susceptible to many different diseases.

“They can be pretty finicky when it comes to this kind of weather,” Desantis said.

For Hawthorn trees, Desantis said in addition to the weather component that might be hard on the tree, there is usually other factors in the background such as disease.

As for good times to plant trees, Desantis recommends waiting until the end of the drought when there is more available moisture.

“You very well could get something in the ground, and it does well for a little while, but the below-ground part- there is things going on that you may not see,” Desantis said. “You might have a room system that doesn’t really develop very well because of the drought, and that might actually affect that plant several years down the road.”

Desantis said a normal or above normal moisture level on the weekly drought monitor is a reasonable time to plant.

Desantis also talked about how to properly water your freshly planted trees during drought and said it is most important to make sure the water is reaching the root systems deep in the soil, but it depends on the season and size of the tree.

“What you want to try to do is think about deep watering at times that are spaced further apart,” Desantis said.

Deep watering, Desantis, means turning on the hose and not putting it right against the base of the tree, allowing the water to flow for a substantial amount of time. During dormant times of the year, Desantis said he would focus most on removing the dead parts of the tree.

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