The Wash
Trees are drying out across D.C. as the drought continues through the fall.

Lack of rainfall leaves Brookland trees vulnerable

Summer heat has continued into the fall.

This week, a watering advisory was sent out by a forestry non-profit in Brookland which plants and cares for trees in urban areas.

Casey Trees stated that September tied the Metro-area’s driest month on record. Weather statistics show that a total of only 0.11 inches of rain fell in D.C. last month.

According to Casey Trees research associate, Sophie Earll, the lack of rainfall has made it difficult for their organization to keep pace with watering demands.  Casey Trees uses water trucks several times a year to help keep community trees healthy.

“These moments of drought are really challenging because internally, it’s difficult for our team to visit all of those sites,” Earll said.

Casey Trees aims to visit the sites of the thousands of trees they have planted at least three times a year in order to water them. Each tree requires 23-30 gallons of water per week or about 1.5 inches of rainfall. As just a tenth of an inch fell in the entire month of September, it has required much more water for trees to stay alive and healthy.

Casey Trees in Brookland is trying to protect the trees they have planted across D.C. through the use of watering trucks.

Earll said that the higher number of trees planted and maintained in the more affluent areas of D.C., such as Georgetown and Rock Creek Park, is helpful to the overall problem because residents typically have the means to maintain their own green spaces. However, as Brookland is a middle class neighborhood, Earll said residents are not as easily able to contribute to the community effort of greenery.

“If someone is more concerned about getting food on the table, or need to find a better education system, you can see why maintaining trees would not be something in their interest,” Earll told The Wash.

Casey Trees plans to continue promoting free watering programs and tree planting classes, in coordination with the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation. They also see the path to a healthier tree population in the neighborhood through educational means by hosting classes and events at recreation centers.

Other experts also acknowledge long periods of dry weather like right now create barriers for their operations as well as for residents.

“During times of low rainfall, obtaining irrigation for trees is difficult, so it’s up to the community to help maintain their green spaces,” said Trevor Putman, a spokesperson for Virginia-based Putman Tree Service. “Anyone who can should contribute to watering.”

Earl said when it comes to planting the right tree in this area, while they cannot predict weather patterns, they try to chose certain species that will work best in the dry temperatures of D.C.

“Based on some of the characteristics we get from each site, such as drier soils, or high P.h. levels, we select species that are more resilient to those factors,” Earll said.

D.C. attractions that house trees and foliage are feeling the effects of the drought. The United States Botanic Garden is seeing the leaves on many of their trees drying out faster, according to spokesperson Devin Dotson.

“Instead of coloring up, the leaves are going straight to brown,” Dotson said. “We’re not gonna see the typical fall colors this year.”

For those who want to contribute to helping the tree population as the dry weather continues, Casey Trees said that they recommend “deep soaking” trees in water as opposed to a simple spraying. Dousing trees in water provides more coverage.

The heat advisory has been extended throughout October and may continue even if temperatures drop, based on how much rainfall will accumulate.

Chris Casey

Chris Casey is an investigative journalist and Journalism and Public Affairs masters student at American University. He is currently partaking in the Practicum at The Washington Post.

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