A common question for most property owners is: How often should I water my trees? This is a great question, especially if you have recently invested in planting a new tree. As with any landscape care there is no one size fits all, when it comes to watering your tree(s). How often you water your tree will be highly dependent up on the area you live in, as well as, whether or not the tree is newly planted or established, the current weather conditions, and the time of year. Caring for your trees and making sure they are sufficiently watered can save you money, help cool your home, provide shade when outside, increase your property value, and provide you and your family with added health benefits.
Below are a few tips to help you know when and how often you should be watering your tree(s), when mother nature is not being of much assistance.
Watering Newly Planted and Established Trees
Newly planted trees
Have you considered planting a new tree in your landscape, or have you just recently planted a tree? If so, then your tree will need to be watered immediately after planting, this will help to ensure proper growth for years to come. At this point in a young trees life it needs a substantial amount of water for the next couple of years until the roots become established. An estimated amount is around 10-15 gallons a week spaced out every 3-4 days. With a new tree, the roots are still extremely close to the tree in the original root ball. So, keep the watering close and extend slightly outward from the trunk.
It takes a couple of years for a newly planted tree to establish its roots in the soil. During periods of drought or extremely hot summers it is imperative that the soil remain moist. Wood chips can be place around the base of the tree but, not touching the trunk to help retain moisture in the soil.
Deep watering is an alternative technique, for those that are less patient, that can be used to help speed up the process of helping newly planted trees establish their root systems faster. To deep water your tree you will need to supply a more than adequate amount of water to completely drench the soil and trees roots system.
Older trees already have established root systems; therefore, your watering schedule or routine will be less vigorous. Throughout a majority of the year supplemental watering is not necessary. At least one-inch of rainfall per week should be enough to adequately water your tree. However, in the event of dry spell, lasting longer than a week, supplemental watering will be necessary.
Watering Trees During a Drought
During periods of drought, do not think of using irrigation as a means to replace the amount of rainfall the tree normally would have gotten. Instead you simply want to apply a supplemental amount of water to keep the tree healthy. Too much water will confuse the tree, making it believe it needs more water than the weather normally provides. Trees are adapted to their climate and accustom to dry spells; therefore, the focus of supplemental watering is simply to ensure the tree gets just enough to maintain its health.
Sometimes during times of drought, cities will place restrictions on water use. If this should happen and you must choose between watering your grass and watering your trees, take into consideration the costs associated with the decline and potential loss of a tree. An unhealthy tree will be more susceptible to pests and diseases, that can spread across your entire landscape. If your tree should die, tree removal is very expensive and after replacing the tree, it will take several years to mature. A newly transplanted tree will also require more care than an established tree, and there is always the added risk of transplant failure.
When and How to Properly Water Your Trees
Use a long screwdriver 8-inches, or longer, for a quick and simple DIY hack for measuring the amount of moisture in the soil around your tree. Simply take the screwdriver and stick it down into the soil. If the screwdriver slides right in, then the soil is retaining plenty of moisture. However, if you are unable to get the screwdriver down into the soil at least 6-inches, without forcing it, then it is time to water your tree.
When watering your tree bear in mind that the water needs to reach a depth of at least 10-inches, to ensure the soil is moist enough. You will want the soil around your tree to be moist, but not soggy. If you should notice the water running off than the tree has received plenty of water and at this point you should wait an extra day or two, then your normal watering schedule, before watering again.
There is fine line when it comes to watering your trees, too close to the trunk can cause root rot and if you do not extend the watering far enough out, from the base of the tree, you will not reach the entire tree root system. There is a term arborists and tree care professionals use called the “Drip line”, to describe the outermost circumference of the trees canopy, or where the tree branches end. When watering your tree, water application should begin under the canopy and extend past the drip line by several feet.
Can my lawn irrigation system be the sole way I water my trees? This is another common question we hear. The answer is, using your lawns irrigation system will only provide your landscape with a shallow watering. If you are using your irrigation system 2 to 3 times a week, you are putting your trees at risk for root rot. To effectively water your tree and improve its drought tolerance you want the water to absorb deeper into the soil. Irrigation systems are specifically designed to provide adequate watering for grass. Therefore, if you have grass growing around the trunk of your tree the grass will absorb a majority of the moisture, blocking the water from penetrating to the tree’s roots. It is better to mulch around your trees, being careful not to mulch up and onto the tree’s trunk. Mulch will allow the water to absorb down into the soil and help keep the tree’s roots warm during the colder winter months.
Supplemental watering is not necessary, unless you go longer than a week without at least 1-inch of rainfall. Using a think layer of mulch around the base of your tree, during the winter months, is a great way to help keep the soil nice a moist and help keep the trees roots warm. Just be sure, you do not pile the mulch up against the trunk of the tree, as this can lead to severe health issues in your tree.
The New Year is just around the corner, which means it’s almost time for first quarter tree care. Come January we will be making our rounds here in Hillsborough County, so if you do not already have a quarterly maintenance plan in place, contact us to schedule your first quarter tree care. Quarterly tree care is essential to maintaining the long-term health of your trees and the first quarter treatments help get your trees ready for growing season. During your appointment, your arborist can also recommend a watering schedule for your trees.