Water your trees during long, dry spells.
Today I noticed that these sycamores along Little River east of Hopkinsville are losing some leaves. Sycamores drop a few leaves all the time, but these trees had many brown leaves mixed in with the green. They're dropping more leaves than usual, earlier than usual, because of the drought. They're near a small river, but the river is nearly dried up.
I've also noticed dead and dying leaves on other trees. Today, in the wind, a surprising number of fallen leaves were floating around under the trees in our yard. It's dry, dry, dry here.
Our local horticulture specialist from the UK Extension Service, Kelly R. Jackson, wrote recently that sycamores, buckeyes, and yellow poplars (tulip trees) are likely to drop some of their leaves early this year. He also commented:
Some plants are more prone to drought related problems than others. Those showing widespread decline and death during drought periods over the last 10 years in Kentucky include dogwood, burning bush, sugar maple, hemlock, dwarf Alberta spruce, white pine, Japanese maple, birch, Taxus (Yew) and Norway Spruce. Some native plants with a good survival rate and adapted to poor landscape sites (shallow soils, compacted soils and other disturbed soils) include pitch pine, pignut hickory, white oak, southern red oak, bur oak, chestnut oak, dwarf hackberry, fringe tree, Virginia pine, American hazelnut, scarlet oak, shingle oak, black jack oak, post oak and black gum.
Source: "How To Care For Trees Stressed By Drought", by Kelly R. Jackson, Kentucky New Era (subscription required), August 4, 2007.
Jackson says we should be watering our trees if possible, an inch per week or more, given all at once. However, be careful not to overwater. Be aware that trees in well-drained sites will need water sooner than those in flatter, damper sites. Up to 3 inches of mulch under the tree will help conserve moisture and keep down plants that compete for water.
We have a large, elderly sugar maple in our front yard, and I am going to water it this weekend. We have a large yard and we can't water all our trees, but it would be a great loss if that maple died.