In a forest environment most mature trees have the best soil conditions and leaf litter cover in the forest floor to keep the trees from needing additional watering in the hot, dry summer months. But our backyards are nothing like forest situations. Furthermore, there are some areas of the country where trees are traditionally not native or common (mid-west Great Plains). Therefore, if you want your trees to reach their full potential and be and stay as healthy as they can be, watering them is the single best and easiest thing you can do in that regard. Here are 4 main points to consider and follow when watering a tree for the best outcome.
The trick to watering a tree is to provide a lot of water, but over a long period of time. Use a soaker hose on a very slow trickle or tree watering bag (Tree Gator, etc.) to give a large amount of water over a 8-10 hour period. You want to soil to be at what is called ‘field capacity’ as much as possible. The slower the better!
Finger in the dirt
Grandma always told me that knowing when to water was the easiest part of gardening. Just stick your finger in the dirt; if it’s dry, water, if it’s wet, don’t water. One of the most common problems I find with people who do water their trees trying to do the best is that they end up over-watering. Often time in urban areas the soil is compacted or mostly clay like soils. Those soils hold more water and drain slower than quality forest-like soils. So you’ll need to water even slower and less frequently than most recommendation schedules. If your soil is sandy and never puddles, then you’ll need to water more frequently.
Don’t be late
Some species of trees will give you a little notice that they are starting to get dry. Birch, locust, buckeye, and some others will start dropping yellow leaves from the inside parts of the canopy when the weather gets hot and they are getting short on water. But most others will not, and if you wait until the tree starts showing signs of drought stress, you are way too late to keep the tree from severe stress. Pay attention to weather patterns and water before the trees start showing they need water. In most areas of the country, for established trees, a watering once or twice a month in July and August will go along ways to keeping your trees healthy.
New trees get the most
Watering new or young trees needs to be a different schedule. You still want to be careful not to over-water, but having a fairly regular schedule all throughout the growing season will ensure the roots have enough water to grow and establish from the stressful transplanting process.
Watering your tree can be easily overthought and can seem intimidating, but the main thing to consider is that as long a s the soil is moist, the tree should be happy. Have a plan to water your mature trees when the weather turns dry. Water very slowly over long periods of time. And be aware of how your soil drains so you don’t over-water and drown your tree. Follow these few steps and your tree will be on its way to thriving versus surviving in your landscape.