Squirrel behavior this year says a lot about the condition of the landscape in general. Our members say they are seeing more squirrel damage to trees than usual - and it comes down to the fact that the squirrels are thirsty.
Due to the dry year, a lot of their normal water sources, like mud puddles or water in the gutter along the roof, just aren't available. Being good tree-dwellers, these bushy-tailed rodents know there's moisture to be found in the sap of the trees. And they're going after it big time.
In the process of gnawing into the tree, they are also sharpening their teeth and pulling back bark to build nests. Yes, there is some tree damage and you might want to look into it if you see substantial damage on your trees.
But back to the general landscape. What the squirrel doesn't notice in its search for moisture is that the tree he's tapping into is also thirsty. The excessive heat this season, along with the dry conditions, has made our trees very thirsty and their branches more brittle. Without the moisture that keeps branches bendy, they will be more prone to snap in the wind or under heavy snows in the months ahead.
Sometimes we take our trees for granted because they are always there and don't turn brown as fast as a heat-stressed lawn. We forget that they, too, can be water-deprived. In reality, a tree is like the squirrel who stores up nuts for the winter. The tree also needs to soak up water - and nutrients - to survive the dormant season.
So how do you help your trees?
Water them now and water once per month through October. Use a deep-root watering device that attaches to a garden hose and soak the soil 6-8 inches deep.
To know where to water, draw an imaginary circle of where the outermost branches extend over the ground. That circle is called the drip line of the tree. Water at various points within this drip line. Be sure to probe and water some points that are closer and some points that farther away from the trunk as you move around the tree.
Fertilize? The deep-root watering device can also deliver fertilizer while you water. But wait until about Labor Day to add fertilizer. Look specifically for a fall blend that has the micro-nutrients that are beneficial for the fall fertilization.
Need help assessing the health of your trees? Find a Pro from among ALCC's members in six chapters statewide.
Courtesy Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado and Neils Lunceford, a landscaping company based in Silverthorne that is a member. You may contact them at (970) 468-0340.