Watering Young Trees
Trees need a lot of water the first few years after planting. And it’s really important to water deeply and infrequently. By that, we mean once a week, for a long period of time. This will help the plant grow roots deeper and stronger than if you water shallowly or every day, because then the plant roots will stay on the surface of the soil.
To water slowly – an easy way to do this is to turn the hose down so that it’s just a little bit more than a trickle coming out of the hose. You can see we’ve got just a little bit of water coming out. We don’t have the water on full blast – just enough to wet the root zone, and then we’re going to let this run for about an hour on the base of the tree. This will help the water soak in slowly, instead of running off.
So it’s important to try to wet the entire root ball. We’ll have the hose in one area. If there’s a little bit of a slope, you can set it on the uphill side. If it’s in a nice flat area, then you can just move the hose periodically as you let it run over the root ball.
We’ve also used mulch to create a shallow depression. Notice we kept the mulch away from the base of the trunk. But the mulch will help keep the water into the root ball area.
You’ve invested a lot of money into your tree and you want it to survive. So you want to do the best job you can watering. An easy way to tell if your tree needs water is to brush that mulch back, and use a knife or a trowel to check the soil moisture below the surface. The surface always dries out the quickest, so if you dig down a few inches, and if the soil is dry a few inches deep, then it’s a good idea to go ahead and water. If there’s still moisture down a few inches, wait to water until that dries out. That will encourage that tree to grow deeper roots to try to reach more water, and you’ll end up with a healthier tree.
This feature story prepared with Jennifer Smith, Kansas State University Research and Extension Horticulture Agent, Douglas County. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at KansasGreenYards.org.