Kansas City is also down about 5 inches of moisture for the year. Many people are losing trees and landscaping because there wasn't enough moisture over the winter, and people didn't know they still needed to water to make it up. It's also been very hot early in the summer.
Young trees especially are vulnerable, and street trees are among the most vulnerable since they often aren't planted correctly to begin with. In many cases, there is not enough exposed soil around them to absorb rain, and they aren't being manually watered by Plaza management, or the City. With young trees, watering needs to be regularly, and it needs to be done long enough to allow a deep soak. That is not really practical. So the tree wells need to be redesigned and rebuilt.
Another problem often is that the very little square of exposed soil is compacted to the point it cannot absorb much rain. That is why the tree's soil should sit slightly lower than the sidewalk, and be covered with some mulch level with the sidewalk (not mounded).
Often what happens when the tree is planted is that the heavy clay soil that was dug out is dumped back in around the tree's roots without being amended with compost, peat moss, and sand that breaks up the clay. Clay soil when compacted is much like concrete in that a little rain will just run off of it, and it won't absorb that much moisture. Only a good day-long rain will penetrate to any degree.
It always amazes me when cities, developers, and property owners spend money to landscape with street trees, but don't bother to do it correctly. In essence, they are wasting their money when they don't.
Here is a Plaza tree well. It is too small to sustain the tree. The well needs to be as large as I've indicated in red.
The best street tree plantings have much bigger areas of soil exposure that can absorb moisture.
You can see these mature trees have bigger wells to support them.
Curb cuts that allow water into the tree well.
This design has curb cuts that allow water into the tree well during rain storms.
You can see in the photo above that these very mature trees have a lot of soil exposure between the curb and sidewalk.
This size is much better, but the well behind the one in the foreground has a no-no situation. The raised bed cannot absorb runoff from the sidewalk or street through a curb-cut. It might survive if watered during dry spells, Who knows? While the tree in the foreground doesn't have the raised concrete around it, there still is a problem. The mulch is piled too high above the sidewalk. Water will be diverted around the mulch mound.
A street tree should not have be on a raised bed. Ideally, the sidewalk and a cut in the curb would allow water to drain into a sunken well where the tree resides, and mulch covers the soil to sidewalk height, but not mounded high above the sidewalk. Or if the trees sits in a sunken well, to avoid people stepping down into it and tripping, a shin-high bracketed metal fence should surround it. This allows water to run under it into the well.
These street tree wells downtown are larger, however, the raised metal prevents rain to run off the sidewalk into the well, so the water catchment area is reduced.
These street tree wells along Locust near the Federal Courthouse downtown are ideal. They are designed to allow water to run off the sidewalk into the well. They have a very large catchment area.