Santa Monica’s Trees May Need More Than Extra Water

Because Santa Monica trees are often deprived of life-sustaining rainfall, many show signs and symptoms of water stress. For those that are simultaneously battling other stressors, such as pests, disease or pollution, life can rest on a knife’s edge.

Of course, providing additional water to these trees is generally the most important step to preventing them from entering a death spiral. However, you’ll want to do more than just provide more water to have the best chance at success. You’ll want to make sure you avoid wasting water as much as is possible and you want to make sure that the soil around the tree is in good shape.

After satisfying the applicable steps below, ask your favorite neighborhood arborists, if there are any other things you should be doing to help protect your trees.


If providing additional water to a struggling tree is step one in water-stress-crisis management, mulching is clearly step two. A 2- to 4-inch-thick layer of rich, organic mulch will provide myriad benefits for your tree, including many that will help to counter the effects of droughts.

For example, mulch helps serve as a thermal insulator and a barrier to evaporation, which means that your trees will be able to absorb what little water reaches them. Additionally, mulch helps to improve general root health, which will make them more efficient at absorbing water from the ground.

Remove Impervious Surfaces

Sidewalks, driveways and similar surfaces prevent rainwater from reaching the soil, so they should be removed from within the dripline of trees whenever practical. If need be, you can replace poured cement with a variety of pervious materials.

It’s also important to remember that tree roots often cause cement slabs to shift or break, as the roots grow into the soil. Generally speaking, you want to plant trees away from cement structures to both give the tree the best chance at a long, healthy life and to avoid ruining your cement structures.

Don’t Make Them Compete

Although it is possible to support a healthy carpet of lush grass and a thirsty tree in the same place, it is not easy to do so without dedicating a lot of supplemental water and effort to do so. In fact, because grass roots are very shallow, they can effectively live a life of plenty, while starving the tree roots below of life-sustaining water.

Accordingly, it is usually wise to remove any lawn or plants growing under water-deprived trees – at least as far as the dripline. It is also important to plan accordingly, when you are installing new trees. Besides, you’ll want to have mulched this entire area anyway, so you won’t have room for grass or plants.

Address Compacted Soil

If the soil under your tree’s dripline has become compacted, water will tend to flow across it, rather than seeping into the soil. Additionally, compacted soils impair the tree’s roots ability to obtain oxygen. There are a variety of ways to fluff out the soil, but many of them require the assistance of a certified arborist or landscape professional.

However, you can reduce soil compaction slightly by using a small pitchfork, but you’ll need to be sure that you don’t damage any of the tree’s fine absorbing roots in the process.

In the Future, Avoid Planting in Poor Places

You can’t do much about a tree’s location once it is established, but it is wise to carefully consider this, should replacement be necessary. If water stress was the primary reason your trees are suffering, you’ll want to consider local environmental factors that may be at play.

For example, soils in exposed, sunny locations dry out more than soils in shaded areas do. Additionally, windswept areas also accelerate the evaporation rate, which can further dry out the place.


If your trees are suffering from water stress, and you’d like to enlist professional help give your friends at Evergreen Arborist Consultants a call. We’ll gladly assess your trees and provide you with actionable steps for keeping them healthy and happy for years to come.