The day I saved 7 street trees – with the help of Inside Croydon

CROYDON COMMENTARY: Stirred into action by our report about street trees being in desperate need of some care and attention during the heatwave, loyal reader LEWIS WHITE, right, set off armed with his watering can and a handful of copies of our news story. This is what he discovered

Branching out: saplings in our streets desperately need water in the extreme heat

After reading Inside Croydon’s article, Council appeals to public to water street trees in heatwave, I took a screenshot and printed out half a dozen copies or so and then went down to a few local streets where I knew trees were planted over the last two winters.

I selected the seven newest trees, which included three that were clearly distressed, with flagging leaves, shrivelled leaves and a few dead branches.

I took the drought-time plunge and knocked on doors of adjacent houses. Some people were out, some were in. All of those who were at home were interested enough to help water the poor trees. The iC article printout really helped, proving I was “legit”!

One young man let me use the hose he was about to use to wash a 1970s heritage car. A lady filled watering cans and I watered as she refilled 10 of them.

As a result, two young, sad-looking and stressed trees were really saved by this timely intervention.

After just 10 minutes, what had previously been a sad-looking silver birch had taken up water, its leaves were green and looked healthy again. I know it is going to be alright now (though I will probably go back in a few days, just to check).

Interestingly, some of the new trees were fitted with the green-coloured “trickle watering bags” around their roots. All of them were empty, except one, which had quite a lot of water inside.

New project: people young and old can help keep street trees well-watered

I lifted the heavy bag up to see whether water was trickling out from the basal holes. Nothing!

I gave it a good shake, poked the holes free with a stick, and – bingo! – water started trickling coming out.

My guess is that there are not enough holes, or that the bags need something like the round wooden part of a tambourine to act as a stand, to keep the bottom of the bag free from getting clogged with soil when in direct contact with the ground.

Huge thanks to the seven residents (aged, I would guess, from 17 to 77) who I met for the first time and who helped me and also watered their street trees themselves.

They clearly were happy to rescue the trees near them.

Good work Inside Croydon. The trees will thank you.

  • Coulsdon resident Lewis White is a retired landscape architect with decades of experience working for local authorities in south London

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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