As young street trees struggle and wilt in the summer heat, people are being urged to step into action with their watering cans to help.
Hundreds of people are already looking after their local trees as part of the Watering Wednesday campaign launched by Trees for Streets, and some residents have set up rotas and allocated particular saplings to specific families.
Although rain is forecast in the next few days, weeks of dry weather have put huge pressure on neighbourhood saplings, which need up to 50 litres of water a week to survive.
Trees for Streets is calling for more people to care for their local trees every Wednesday.
“For the first few years, young trees need about 50 litres a week – five standard watering cans – in the hotter months,” said Simeon Linstead, of the charity. “[So] if it’s especially hot or dry, feel free to give a street tree a drink.”
There is a growing body of evidence showing the myriad benefits of street trees, from improved air quality to increasing biodiversity. Studies show trees dramatically reduce the risk of flooding during downpours, while in heatwaves they cool the air and break up urban heat islands. Research also shows they can improve mental health, strengthen community relations – and can even reduce crime.
Councils have stepped up their planting programmes in recent years as the multiple benefit of street trees are better understood. Many local authorities have watering programmes for younger trees to help them survive.
However, tree cover in England is still among the lowest in Europe, and Linstead said it was crucial for residents to support trees in their neighbourhoods.
“You won’t harm [them] by doing this and they’ll repay you in kind with shade in the future,” he said.
The charity has helped communities across the country to increase tree cover in their neighbourhoods. Now it is urging everyone to get involved watering their local trees every Wednesday throughout the summer.
Linstead said: “Just a little bit of effort over the coming few months will reward you for decades to come, providing shade, improving air quality and to green up the world outside your front door as the trees grow and mature. This is something that can bring neighbours together and improve the local space for everyone.”