Balance is important in all aspects of your life. Surprisingly enough, this includes tree care!

Watering the right amount is essential to keeping your trees strong and healthy. Both watering too much or too little can be harmful.

If the leaves are brown on the edges and are drooping or wilted, your tree may not be getting enough water. On the other hand, green leaves that easily break could mean you’re over-watering.

Just like leaves, roots need oxygen for respiration, the process of turning sugars into energy - think of breathing. Overly wet soil conditions suffocate roots, preventing them from obtaining oxygen. As a rule of thumb, deep and infrequent watering is optimal for most trees in most situations.

The exact amount of water your tree needs, however, depends on the time of year and the tree's age in the landscape. Read below to find out how to maintain the balance for all your trees!

How Much Should I Water My Young Trees?

Young trees need more care and attention for the first 1-2 years. During their initial establishment period, trees focus energy and resources on growing their roots, which is why you’ll see little above ground growth. The magic is happening underground!

By providing the tree with enough water, you’re helping grow strong, substantial roots while also promoting stem and leaf growth. Adequate irrigation also encourages a desirable dominant leader in the tree canopy. If you don’t water your newly planted tree enough, your tree may develop minimal roots, suffer from canopy dieback, develop double leaders that can split from the tree later, and take longer to establish.

Start with frequent irrigation the first few months. For trees planted in spring or summer, this amounts to 1 to 3 weekly waterings in cooler hardiness zones and 3 weekly waterings in warmer hardiness zones.

Then, you can back off a bit and provide weekly irrigation until your trees are fully established. At each watering, this equates to approximately 1 to 2 gallons of water per inch of trunk diameter for trees in cool climates or 2 to 3 gallons of water per inch of trunk diameter for trees in warm climates. Target your watering over the root ball of the tree.

Our preferred method for delivering water is with a soaker hose, running anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours at a time. This system slowly releases water, which may mitigate runoff and improve absorption. Note that it will take some experimentation to discern how much water per minute your hose releases.

How Much Should I Water My Mature Trees?

The roots of a mature tree have already spread out, so they don't need as much attention! You can even plan to water mature trees as little as 1-2 times a month if they are well established.

Based on the amount of rain and heat levels in your region, this may vary. Watering more often when there is a drought is usually wise, but resist the urge to overcompensate.

To see if your tree needs water, poke a long screwdriver into the soil. If it’s hard to push in and there is no soil sticking to the shaft, water. If the screwdriver penetrates easily and has particles sticking to it when pulled out of the ground, the soil is still saturated.

Try deep root watering to water the tree less often while ensuring it gets the proper amount of water!

Learn more tree care tips from your local arborist.

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