LAWNS Tree Farm Watering Guide
Proper watering is imperative to establishing your tree in its new location. Water too much and the air pore space in your soil will be constantly filled with water, oxygen will not reach the root zone, and your tree will die. Too little water and your tree will struggle to establish its roots and eventually succumb to death by drought. Since we all have different soil types and conditions, you need to realize the following. Soil conditions must be considered when deciding what’s enough water, and not too much. Heavy soils high in clay content will stay saturated longer from watering because they drain more slowly. Sandy soils drain faster and will probably need a little more watering. Improve your soil when planting by back filling with our mix which is described in the LAWNS TREE PLANTING GUIDE. By having some of your soil as back fill it helps your tree and roots establish into your Landscape.
The time of year has an influence on how much to water your tree. Trees obviously need more water during the Spring, Summer, and Fall because they are actively growing, consuming water, and it’s hot. In the winter months, some trees are dormant and not consuming as much water or nutrition. The first year your tree is planted, water close to the tree trunk, in the tree water well. I prefer to water new trees deeply every 5-7 days during the growing season for the first couple of years, slowly tapering off by the end of year two. A 30-gallon tree will require around 25 gallons with each watering and a 45-gallon tree about 35 gallons. This way your tree starts to transition from wet to moist soil periodically, allowing air into the root zone, and encouraging your roots to spread outward in search of nutrients and water. Also, during year two, place both your water as well as your fertilizer band (if using granules) out a few inches further from the tree hole and expand your water well four more inches out. This will encourage your roots to run into your native existing soil. This will better anchor your tree and ultimately collect water and nutrition from a larger area once established.
Rainfall alone is not enough water for trees the first few years of life. I’ve observed native Live Oaks as well as newly planted ones die from drought conditions, even after being planted for many years. Pay close attention to your trees especially as you’re getting them established. Look for the new growth tips drooping as this is almost always an early sign of a thirsty plant. Please kneel down and scratch a few inches into your soil to physically check moisture conditions. Make sure you have new growth happening on your tree most of the time (other than dormancy) or you may need to adjust your watering or feeding schedule. Your tree will require more water in a small area than your lawn sprinkler system will provide with just grass heads. Tree bubblers can be added to your existing system, my favorite is the adjustable flow bubblers. Taking all this into consideration, I’ve had good results with the following water instructions as a rule.
The first growing season water a 15-gallon tree once every 5 days with 5 to 10 gallons of water, a 30-gallon tree once every 5 days with 25 gallons of water, a 45-gallon tree once a week with 35 gallons of water. I recommend using 5-gallon buckets to measure your water and it makes it easy to add root stimulator and water-soluble fertilizer to your watering. Always follow product label instructions! In Lieu of measuring your water into 5 gallon buckets, fill your tree water well with a water hose till it stands in the water well for 5 to 10 minutes after turning the water off. This also tells you that you watered good. Do this once a week for at least the first 6 months, as needed. If we planted your tree we installed a water monitor pipe so you can confirm that your root ball is thoroughly watered by using your bamboo dipstick. You should be able to read 6 to 12 inches of water on your bamboo dipstick when you place it in the monitor pipe.
Seasonal temperature and rainfall variations will require some adjustment to this schedule. These are general recommendations as most sites vary.