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We have property with lots of fir and cedar trees. For some unknown reason, we had two firs die the last two years which were close to each other. We had them removed. Now two cedars and three firs in the same area are dying. Do you have any suggestions?

In most cases the native fir and cedar trees which are dying in Washington and Oregon are suffering from summer drought and heat conditions. They are dying in the forests as well as in urban areas. There used to be some carryover of summer subsoil moisture which brought them through the summer dry period. This was supplemented by occasional summer rain. The last three summers have been especially hot and dry. One weather forecaster said that this June is likely to be the driest on record. It is our own version of climate change.

Some of our arborvitae and other evergreen hedges which are seldom irrigated during the summer are also suffering.

Drought-weakened trees are also the most likely to be attacked by insects and disease. But these attacks are usually secondary.

Native trees on or adjacent to your property should be deep irrigated once or twice per month from now until October. Apply enough water to reach at least a foot deep in the soil. It usually requires an hour or more of sprinkler irrigation to reach this depth.

Drip irrigation is usually the most efficient way to irrigate because there is very little loss by evaporation. Since drip or soaker hoses apply water at a much slower rate, it may require several hours to apply enough water. I often leave them on overnight. The best way to use a soaker hose is to place it around a tree under the outer reach of its branches. A soaker hose could also be placed along the outer edge of a hedge.

Deeper irrigation is also a good practice for other plants in the landscape. With shrubs, flowers and lawns we should apply enough water to reach about 6 inches deep. Check with a shovel right after a typical irrigation to see how deep the soil is wet. Increase the irrigation time until water reaches the 6-inch depth.

You can check your water output of sprinklers by placing shallow cans such as tuna fish cans on the lawn and beds. Turn on sprinklers for a set amount of time. Then check with a ruler to see how much water has accumulated. You need about 1/2 inch of water to reach 6 inches deep.

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