From Green Right Now Reports

The Texas Drought Map for Jan. 10, 2012 shows continued dry conditions across the state. Yellow areas are rated "dry" and red areas are listed as suffering "extreme" or "exceptional drought."

Although it’s less obvious during winter, with the fields and forests having gone dormant, the historic drought in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and parts of the Southeastern US continues to claim casualties.

Trees, especially, remain at risk because they use the winter months to grow root systems, and the moisture in the soil will determine whether they’ll recover from 2011’s record drought and heat.

Meanwhile, the drought continues, with rainfall totals remaining far behind average across Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana — despite some seasonal rainfall in parts of these states.

In worst-hit Texas, the Texas Forest Service projects that up to 500 million trees statewide will die as a result of the 2011 drought, which was exacerbated by record-breaking summer heat.

But most homeowners won’t know how the trees on their property fared until the plants show signs of distress next season.

Oak trees in Austin may suffer through the winter as the drought continues.

To give trees their best shot at survival, the non-profit Texas Tree Foundation has put out an alert advising people to maintain soil moisture up to 12 to 15″ deep around each specimen.

Take special care with trees that have been exposed to direct sun, dry winds or abnormally high temperatures (reflected heat from buildings can raise the temperature on foliage).

The Texas Tree Foundation advises tree owners to:

  • Deep water using a soaker hose at the drip line for the tree. Let the water slowly trickle onto the area. One rule of thumb is to supply the tree with 10 gallons of water per inch of trunk diameter every week.
  • Watch for signs of drought stress, but don’t cut down trees that may appear to have died. Water the tree between periods of rain and wait for spring. Then, if the tree still looks to be in trouble, consult an arborist.

“A lot of trees are dormant right now and some went dormant early because of the drought as a defense mechanism,” said Matt Grubisich, Urban Forester for Texas Trees Foundation.

“Even with water restrictions, most municipalities will let you use a soaker hose, which is a great way to be able to water your trees.”

The US Drought Monitor shows that much of the Southeast continues to suffer from drought in early 2012.

While watering trees presents a delicate issue, with lakes going dry, saving a tree is generally a good proposition for the climate. Trees help alleviate greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and mitigate heat damage by providing shade and cover for wildlife and buildings.

For more information about tree care and watering visit the website of the Texas Trees Foundation in Dallas.