When a gardener asked Beach Metro News to find out if lack of moisture was causing white patches to form on the base of trees along the boardwalk, the answer was actually the opposite – too much watering, by dogs.
Beth McEwen, the city’s manager of urban tree renewal, says while dog urine is toxic to trees and especially harmful to trees with thin bark, it is unlikely to kill them.
“I’m sure that it’s contributed to less healthy conditions,” she said. “But it’s not something that we worry much about.”
Dry soil is another story. McEwen said trees along Toronto beaches do need extra care because heavy foot traffic compacts the soil around them. That means rain tends to run off rather than sink into the soil, and tree roots also get less oxygen.
After a long summer drought in 2012, McEwen said this year was much better for Toronto trees. But a three-week August dry spell did prompt her to ask residents to water city trees on their street.
“The biggest thing is not letting the soil dry out,” she said. “If you let it get really dry, it’s much harder to re-moisten the soil to a depth of 18 inches, where most of the root system is.”
McEwen said newly planted trees are the most vulnerable to drought, so city tree-planting contracts typically include eight weeks of watering – often done with a gaiter bag that zips around the trunk and releases water slowly.
McEwen is looking for ways to get more Toronto residents to help water the city trees on their street, where taps and hoses are closer at hand.
Martina Rowley, a Beach Metro columnist and organizer of Greening Ward 32, said that by early August she had to restart an adopt-a-tree program for Woodbine Park that began during last year’s drought.
“The ground was really very dry and hard,” said Rowley.
About a dozen people, all members of the Friends of Woodbine Park, volunteered to water 30 of the 120 trees that were planted at Woodbine in the last year or two. Several of the volunteers look after the tree with their families, she said.
“It’s a fun thing for kids to do, to learn about a tree and take responsibility for it over the summer,” she said.
Anyone interested can sign up for the adopt-a-tree program next year by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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