Stressed-Out Trees & the Lure of Up North

  • The Empire Bluff hike in northern Michigan. (Photo by Rebecca Williams)

City officials in Holland, Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor are asking for a little help from residents. They're asking people to start watering trees along city streets – the ones between the curb and the sidewalk. 

Kerry Gray is an Urban Forestry & Natural Resources Planner with the City of Ann Arbor.

"Most of the trees are currently really under a lot of stress.  So we would obviously love people to water the street trees but we’d also love them to pay attention to the trees on private property as well."

She says trees need water immediately if you see wilting or curling leaves and if leaves or needles are dropping off.  Newly planted trees are especially at risk.

Here are some guidelines the Ann Arbor city foresters recommend for watering trees:

  • The morning hours are usually the best time to water
  • Slow, deep soakings are better than frequent light watering for both newly planted trees and established trees
  • For newly planted trees and small trees up to 4", a good watering is 10 gallons per inch of tree diameter applied in the mulched area around the tree, once per week.  A 3" diameter tree would need 30 gallons of water (3" x 10 gallons).  Newly planted trees should be watered weekly during the first 3 growing seasons.
  • For established medium trees (5"-12"), a general guideline for watering during prolonged dry periods is 10 gallons of water for every 1 inch diameter, three times per month.  For example, an 8" diameter tree will need 80 gallons of water.  To water, place a sprinkler or soaker hose in the dripline of the tree.  The dripline is the outer extent of the branch spread.  Move the sprinkler/hose around to ensure that all the roots in the dripline are watered. 
  • For large trees (greater than 13"), 15 gallons of water for every inch of diameter, two times per month during prolonged dry periods. A 14" tree would need 210 gallons of water. To water, use the method described above for medium trees. For established trees, do not water within 3 feet of the trunk; this can lead to root rot.
  • In normal precipitation years, mother nature provides the water an established tree needs and supplemental watering is typically not necessary.   

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This is the Environment Report.

A lot of us in Michigan are passionate about going up north.                                                                                

“I remember the good old days when my dad would pack us up in the station wagon and head up north. It was 80 acres in the middle of nowhere …I’m heading to Petoskey on Wednesday and on Thursday or Friday to Whitefish Point and Tahquamenon Falls…Tomorrow I’m making my annual pilgrimage to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.”

Those are comments from Facebook fans, answering the question, “Anyone headed up north this weekend?” But where is up north & why do we love going? Reporter Kyle Norris takes a look:

The definition of “up north” is incredibly personal. It has to do with where you’re from and where you’re headed. But there seems to be a general consensus, of where it begins, at least for people in the Lower Peninsula.

"In Michigan I think the north begins right about halfway across mitten—or you can be a little more exact and say Highway 10. Somewhere between Claire & Luddington."

That’s nature writer Keith Taylor.  He says the world around you begins to change quickly…once you cross that line.

"You suddenly start seeing white pines and white birches. So the trees change."

Taylor says people have always craved a landscape that’s different from the hustle and bustle of their everyday lives. For people who lived in Detroit in the ’20s & ’30s… going “up north” just meant traveling one county over. These days “up north” usually means driving a couple of hours in the car. Taylor says we’re lucky that in Michigan there are a lot of places close by.

“It’s the interesting thing about our state there’s the major industries to the south employing all those people and we’re so close to the edge of the wilderness.”

Denise & David Frick have a little cottage near Kalkaska. They love going up north because of the beauty & peacefulness.

Denise: "Even when you’re up there the air is even cleaner, you can feel the difference as soon as you arrive. Of course it’s a vacation property—so there’s no mail up there, there’s no work, there’s no desk, you go up there to relax."

David: "And we have a TV up there that gets like two-and-a-half stations, with rabbit ears."

When the Fricks get ready to go up north from their home in Ann Arbor… it’s a low-key affair.

David: "We can look in the cooler right now.' KN: 'Yeah, I wanna know what’s in the cooler. So it doesn’t necessarily have to be cold to be in the cooler?'"

David: "No! The cooler contains black pepper which we ran out of. Hershey Bars, for making ‘smores. Some belts for a drill press and an extension cord."

The Fricks say their idea of a good time up north is sitting around and looking at the lake. Writer Keith Taylor says being outside is another appealing aspect.

"One could be confronted by things that appear just a little more wild, a little bit around the edge. You could get lost in woods, although probably not forever. You might run into a bear. And that would change things, that would add a little bit of excitement without really, really threatening your life."

The concept of going “up north” is not unique to Michigan or even to America. But we have the Great Lakes. And as Keith Taylor says, there’s nothing like all that fresh water, anywhere in the world.

For The Environment Report, I’m Kyle Norris.