Drought taking toll on tree seedlings

July 28, 1997


Staff Writer

The summer drought has taken a toll on spring seedlings and young trees, according to local planters and foresters.

They say fledgling trees are more susceptible to drought-related damage because their roots do not stretch into the groundwater.

Jernigan Landscaping Owner Troy Jernigan, of Hagerstown, said he lost about 25 percent of the seedlings he planted early this year.

Some nurseries said homeowners who correctly watered newly planted trees have tended to have better results.

"If people aren't watering them, they're dying," said Keith Wattenschaidt, owner of Lappans Greenhouse & Nursery in Boonsboro. "Most of mine are doing well."


To help trees through the dry spell, home gardeners can place on the ground a hose that is lightly trickling water for about half an hour each week, said Jack Lovell Jr., owner of Lovell's Nursery Inc. in Hagerstown.

Of about 40 trees planted two months ago at the Fairview Outdoor Education Center's arboretum in Clear Spring, only two "didn't look too good," said center head teacher Gary Wilkes.

The rest, which looked a little yellow but alive, were saved, partly because they were faithfully watered each week by some of the 64 Clear Spring High School students who had planted them May 16, Wilkes said.

Antietam National Battlefield was not so fortunate - perhaps because no watering system is set up for the 4,000 seedlings planted there in the last two years.

Superintendent John Howard estimated a 40 percent to 50 percent loss on the 1,716 seedlings and trees planted this year between April and June around the battlefield's 13-acre wood reforestation area.

"Just about every tree out there is showing some kind of stress," Howard said.

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