Many homeowners assume rain will provide enough water for trees. But your watering will make a huge difference in the health and survival of trees when they’re young or when the weather is dry. 

Young trees should be watered regularly; every couple of weeks, and more often in dry weather, for at least two years after they are planted. In times of drought, when it hasn’t rained for a month or more, even large, mature trees will need watering.

The best way to water trees is slowly for a long time, so the roots have time to absorb the moisture from the soil as it soaks down. The roots that absorb the water aren’t deep. They spread out sideways and most are just a foot or so beneath the surface of the soil. On a mature tree, roots extend far in all directions, but it’s sufficient to concentrate on watering the area beneath the branches.

Newly planted trees and young trees haven’t yet grown a large network of roots. That’s why they can’t store much water and need to be watered often. They should be watered near the trunk, where the root ball is.

You can water several ways:

  • Hose
  • Soaker hose
  • Sprinkler
  • Bucket

Hose: One option is to turn the hose to a slow dribble and place it on the ground near the trunk. After half an hour, move it a couple of feet around the trunk. Keep moving the hose from place to place until it has dribbled for an hour, or even two hours for a large tree.

The larger the tree, the more time it will take to give it enough water, and the more you will have to move the hose to get the water to a wide area of the roots.

Soaker hose: Another option is to use a porous soaker hose, which will allow water to slowly ooze out of its entire length. Lay the hose on the soil around the tree. Turn the water on just enough so you see beads of water on the surface of the hose. Let it go for an hour or more.

Sprinkler: You can use a sprinkler, but turn it down so the water doesn’t splash on the leaves. The tree needs the water in the soil, where its roots are.

Bucket: If a tree is too far from the hose, you can use a bucket. Pour the water slowly on the area all around the trunk. For a young tree, try to deliver at least 10 gallons every time you water. 

Mulch will help hold the moisture in the soil. Spread it in an even layer about 3 to 4 inches deep as widely as possible around the trunk.

Healthy trees will live for decades or centuries but many need a little help from you along the way to make sure they thrive.


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