How To Water Trees: Tips & Tricks From The Experts

how to water trees and avoid underwatered or overwatered trees

Spring is finally in the air—and with it, the perfect time to spend in outdoor spaces. We’re all ready to head out into the sun with the warmer weather. With this comes in active monitoring of tree health, which includes knowing and understanding how to water trees properly.

If you’ve been thinking of planting trees or providing extra “TLC” to your existing trees, you may have a few questions. How to best water trees, and how often should you water them? Let’s take a look at the best ways to water new or established trees.

How to Water Trees That Are Newly Established

tree sapling in hand, make sure to know how to water trees properly as they grow

If you have a young tree, you’ll need to pay special attention to your watering habits. Ease the tree’s stress by waiting until the day after planting to water, and then deeply water the new tree.

Depending on the type of tree and its age, it can take anywhere from one to two growing seasons for the tree to become established. This means that its roots have grown out of its initial root ball and deep into the nutrient-rich soil beyond. During these growing years, young trees need the right amount of water.

Of course, most homeowners ask: how much water does a young tree need, and how often?

The idea with younger trees is to water them less and less often as the root system gets established. In the first few years, you may need to water every one to two weeks.

In general, you’ll want to water a new garden tree thoroughly enough to soak the entire root ball. As for frequency, the amount varies by the type of tree, the soil, and the weather. Here in Northern Virginia, DC, and Maryland, you may need to water 1-2 times per week in the middle of summer and weekly, or not at all as winter sets in.

Tree Care Tip #1, From Your RTEC Certified Arborist:

An easy way to tell if the soil is wet is to pick up the soil and see if you can make a mudball out of it. If you can, then the soil is wet, and the tree doesn’t need watering.

Worried About Your Trees?

How to Water Trees That Are Mature

mature older trees need different watering techniques, how to

Once a backyard tree is mature—meaning that its root system is well developed—it will need water less often.

As you might expect, mature trees need a lot more water than new trees. It’s a common misconception that deep roots are the ones that absorb nutrients. In actuality, the “feeder” (fine, hair-like) tree roots are concentrated within the top few inches of the soil. They extend out to the tree’s canopy. This is the area you want to water.

There’s no set amount of water to provide, but a general rule of thumb is that you’ll want to wet the area to a depth of at least ten inches. You’ll want to water your tree slow and deep. Doing this will nourish the tree’s roots and protect it against future weather stressors.

Be sure to avoid frequent, shallow waterings here; it’s best to simply check the moisture of the soil around the tree to see when extra water is needed. To do this, see how hard it is to insert a stake or screwdriver into the ground. If you can’t press it in, the soil is too dry and needs water.

NOTE: This trick can also be useful the first few times you water your tree, as it can help you gauge how much water your tree needs.

Take Better Care of Your Trees

dog by tree: how to water your trees properly

Although it may seem hard to understand when trees need moisture, these general tips can help you understand when and how to water trees on your property. Over time, you’ll get a feel for the watering frequency your plant needs, provided that you pay close attention!

Tree Care Tip #2, From Your RTEC Certified Arborist:

To see if you’ve underwatered your tree, check the edges of its leaves and see if you can find any discoloration; if you do, then your tree needs more water.

On the other hand, if you find that your leaves are yellowing or of an unfamiliar color, then you’ve likely overwatered your trees. Temporarily stop watering your tree for 1-2 weeks and try the screwdriver test again before resuming.

>> Find out if your trees have been underwatered or overwatered

As tree geeks, most of us are no stranger to making the most of the great outdoors. If you’re worried your trees are showing signs of over- or underwatering, or if you can’t figure out how to tackle issues you’ve noticed with it, our team is always here to help. You can make an appointment online or call us at 703-573-3029 to meet with one of our Certified Arborists.

>> For other ways you can support your trees this spring, check out our Spring Tree Care checklist or download it here.

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