To help ensure a successful transplant, trees must be watered at the time of planting. Watering aids in settling the soil, improving soil-root contact and assuring adequate initial moisture. During the first 2-3 years after planting, watering is required to provide sufficient moisture to help establish strong root systems.
The amount and frequency of watering will depend on the amount of rainfall (mother nature does not typically provide enough water in the first few years), the moisture-holding capacity of the soil and the type of tree. A great way to tell if watering is needed is to squeeze a handful of soil within 2 feet of the root system of the tree. If the soil sample retains its shape after the hand is opened, but is not sticky, the moisture content is good.
Trees require more water as they grow and as the seasons change. The need for water slowly declines in the fall and continues to be low through the winter. During the dry periods of May through September, keep a close eye on your trees to determine when they need water. Signs of water stress, either too much or too little water, include: wilting, a change in leaf color from shiny to dull, yellowing, premature leaf fall or premature autumn coloring.
Watering should not be done when the soil is frozen. Generally, deciduous trees should continue to be watered until they are bare in the fall. All recently transplanted trees should enter into winter with ample moisture in the soil. Evergreens need water all year round, so if fall weather conditions are dry, the trees should receive a good soaking in October and November.
There are several methods by which to water your tree:
Standard Hose Watering
Lay a standard lawn hose near the trunk of your tree and let the water run SLOWLY (i.e., at the rate it takes to fill a 16-ounce glass of water in 30 seconds). Move the hose to the other side of the trunk in 3- 4 hours, but keep water flowing on the tree’s root ball for 6-8 hours.
Soaker Hose Watering
You can purchase this hose (50’-70’) at any do-it-yourself store. Lay the hose on top of the mulch and wrap it around the top of the tree ball. Turn water on full pressure and let it run for 6-8 hours. Repeat every 14-21 days.
Using a clean 50-gallon plastic garbage can, drill 3 holes, 1” off of the bottom of the can and 8” apart. Place on half of the root ball, at the edge with holes facing the trunk, and fill with water. When it is empty, move to the other half of the root ball and follow the same procedure. Repeat every 14-21 days.
Note that over-watering can cause the roots to drown from lack of adequate soil aeration, so water according to the above guidelines. When necessary, water every 10-15 days in regular soil. Trees in sandy soil and in elevated locations may need additional watering.
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