By Jennifer Killian
On a sunny day last November, Friends of Trees partnered with teachers and students from Eugene’s Irving Elementary School to plant 37 street and yard trees in front of the school to promote a Safe Pathway to School program. Now, in the hottest and driest part of the summer, Friends of Trees staff, homeowners, and volunteers are watering young street trees all over Eugene and Springfield, including the trees at Irving Elementary. These watering crews are busy taking care of nearly 800 trees planted this season. Friends of Trees recommends newly-planted trees receive a deep watering once a week of about 10-15 gallons.
“Can watering trees be turned into a science experiment?”
Recently, some of the students from Irving Elementary asked After School Program Coordinator Lori Wheeler if it would be possible to use the watering of the new trees as a science experiment. Together, Lori and the students decided to find out.
They first looked at the in-ground sprinkler system to see if it provides enough water to the trees. They placed a bucket at the base of one of the trees near the sprinkler system to capture water from the sprinklers. They quickly determined that the trees would not receive enough water from the sprinklers alone. So, it was on to the next plan.
These days, if you drive past Irving Elementary on a Wednesday afternoon, you will see a group of students outside under the shade of a large maple tree. Led by Tree Team Leader Tyler and supervised by Lori, they enjoy their lunch and make a watering plan for the day. Of the 37 trees, all but a handful can be reached by connecting a series of long watering hoses. The students timed how long it took to fill 2-3 five-gallon buckets with water from the hose. With that amount of time in mind, they stretch the hose to each tree and let the water run for the appropriate amount of time. Those trees that are out of the reach of the hose are watered with five- gallon buckets that the students take turns filling up and carefully pouring on the base of the each tree.
With a briefcase and clipboard, Tyler carefully records each the watering of each tree, notes potential problems, and reports back to Friends of Trees. At the end of the summer, the students will create a presentation of their watering methods and results to Friends of Trees staff, who are all very excited to see.
- Jennifer is the Volunteer & Neighborhood Trees Specialist in the Friends of Trees Eugene office.