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Summer Tree Care Tips: Watering

August 25, 2021


Is your tree thirsty?

Did you plant a new tree earlier this spring?

Does the soil surrounding the trunk look like the surface of the moon?

Is it showing signs of transplant stress such as wilting, browning, or curling leaves?

Is it dropping foliage or experiencing early fall color?

If so… it’s thirsty! Give it water!
Newly planted trees are like babies. They require a lot of attention the first few years after planting as they expend energy to establish roots in the surrounding soil.

Summer Tree Care Tips: Watering

Watering tips & tricks

  1. Water trees for the first three years after planting. As a precautionary, water established trees during dry spells or drought.
  2. Newly planted trees require 10-15 gallons of water 2-3 times/week if there is no rainfall.
  3. Prioritize watering trees growing in full sun, in limited soil space or adjacent to heat-absorbing surfaces like sidewalks and driveways.
  4. To check if a tree needs water, use a garden trowel and dig a few inches into the soil surrounding the root ball. Decide if the soil has moisture or if it’s very dry.
  5. Apply water in the early morning or evening to prevent loss to evaporation.
  6. Preserve soil moisture by adding a layer of mulch around your tree (see Mulch Do’s and Dont’s). This will reduce evaporation and eliminate competition from other competing plants.

How to properly water your tree

Hose Method

Place a hose a foot or so from the base of the trunk and run it at a trickle for 30 minutes, moving it around the root ball to a different position every 10 minutes. This will ensure water doesn’t run off the surface too quickly and will infiltrate the root zone.

Sprinkler Method

Fix the sprinkler head so it doesn’t oscillate, set it on low, and place it near the base of the tree – but not on the trunk – for 15 minutes on one side then 15 minutes on the other. It’s a good way to cover more area.

Bucket Method

If you don’t have a hose or it doesn’t reach the tree, use a 5-gallon bucket. Fill the bucket with water and SLOWLY pour the water to the base of the tree allowing it to fully infiltrate the soil. Once the first five gallons have infiltrated the soil, repeat two more times so a total of 15 gallons of water is applied. Your tree and triceps will thank you!
You can also water with a 5-gallon bucket that you have drilled holes, about the diameter of a pencil lead, in the bottom of. Five holes are sufficient. Place the bucket at the base of the tree, fill the bucket to the top with water, let it drain, move it slightly around the tree and fill it again – 3 times total.

The dangers of heat stress

The combination of hot temperatures and little rainfall that characterizes summer weather is a dangerous, stressful condition for trees.
Signs of Heat Stress…

  • Leaves wilt and branch tips droop
  • Leaves or needles in the interior of the tree turn yellow
  • Green leaves start falling off the tree

Leaf edges become scorched (they look brown, crispy, and dead)
Dry soil conditions cause direct damage to tree roots. The roots become dry and nonfunctional causing a water and nutrient deficiency to the tree. Trees that are stressed by drought are less hardy making them more susceptible to pests, diseases, extreme weather conditions, root rot, etc.

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