Guerilla guide to nurturing new trees in Los Angeles
Act 1: You've got trees!
Back in 2009 or so, some happy combination of
the Greater Wilshire Neighborhool
the Koreatown Youth and Community Center,
Million Trees LA, and/or
magically arranged for holes to be cut and trees to be planted
in the big concrete sidewalks on the north and west side of
across the street from my house. This was great -- we can use all the
green leafy shade we can get!
But, as it turned out, nobody was watering the trees,
so they all started dying a few months later in the summer sun.
Act 2: How do you do this watering thing?
I decided to take things in my own hands. I tried a few things:
Oregon newspaper article suggests 15 gallons / week per inch of thickness,
which jibes with what I found (I think the saplings started out about
an inch think).
- The school has a faucet, but there wasn't enough hose to reach all
the trees, and it was really hard to get into the school grounds to hook
up and turn it on. No joy.
- I put a few 10 gallon bins in the trunk of my car, and poured about
three gallons on each tree a week. Not enough - they still kept dying,
and my trunk got kind of flooded from the sloshing water.
- One day when the neighbor nearest the trees was watering his lawn,
I asked if he could keep the nearest tree watered. This was a win!
Ever Saturday, he sprayed it for a few minutes, soaking it nicely,
and it absolutely thrived. Eventually he started doing the next two
trees as well.
- I got out our ol' Radio Flyer red wagon, put a 19 gallon storage bucket
and a little bucket in it, and shuttled between each tree and
the friendly neighbor's faucet. This let me put lots of water
on each tree, but I had to do it slowly, or it would run off.
- Finally, I dug a big moat around each tree, heaping the dirt around
the edge of the moat. This seems to work well; it lets me quickly dump
15-20 gallons on each tree in one go without any waste.
Guidelines for Trees at helpmytrees.com suggests weekly watering
for young trees; one should water only if the soil is dry, and
one should water enough to get the soil wet all the way down where
the roots are (two feet or more).
Act 3: happy trees?
So my final recipe is: for the first two or so years until it's
well established, a sapling in the hot LA sun needs a moat around
it, filled with 15-20 gallons of water once a week. If a hose won't
reach, use a kiddy wagon and a 15-20 gallon bucket/tub to schlep the water
there from the nearest faucet.
Sounds easy, but for some reason it took me a year to figure out.
I'm sure that a TreePeople training session would have saved me
a lot of time.