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HOW TO WATER newly planted trees and shrubs
Trees and shrubs may not survive transplant shock due to receiving either too much or not enough water. Here are our best tips on proper watering techniques.
Water at time of planting:
Ensure your plant is not moisture stressed at time of planting. Water a few hours before planting, then at planting time and thoroughly the next day after planting. Water new trees 1-3 times a week for the first few months, unless it rains frequently, in which case watering time may need to be cut in half.
Watering for the first year
It is important to water properly during the first year to eliminate growth stress and encourage a healthy root system. The difference in soil of the root ball and soil in the surrounding ground can sometime lead to absorption differences in the growth medium. This issue can be solved by creating a small circular berm around the root zone. This basin will prevent runoff and help retain moisture until it is soaked up by the roots. A garden hose left on a slow drip at the root zone is best for absorption. An alternative to this is using a 5 gallon bucket. Drill holes in the side near the bottom. Fill bucket with water and let the water slowly leak in the ground. Water retaining bags can also be used for this purpose. After the first month, a weekly soaking of approximately 10 gallons of water should be sufficient for newly planted trees and large shrubs. Large basketed trees will require more water. Smaller shrubs or perennials less, but the quantity of water should always be enough to moisten the entire root ball.
Second and Third Growing Seasons
Continue to water your new trees and shrubs every 7-14 days if it doesn’t rain and soil is dry. As root systems establish the root zone will widen and watering area will expand. Water should soak into the ground approx 8 to 12 inches
HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?
No matter how drought tolerant , native or hardy a tree is, all young trees must be watered regularly until they become established.(2-3 years) It can be easy to be overly kind to new plants and water too often. You can tell if this is happening when the soil is excessively wet and muddy. This overwatering can cause ‘wet wilt’ which looks like the leaves are wilting due to dryness but they are actually wilting due to overwatering. If soil is constantly saturated root damage may occur due to lack of oxygen. As a result leaves may not recover and plant will perish. To prevent this, keep your watering thorough but to a maximum of 3 days a week.
SHOULD I WATER IN THE FALL?
If we have a dry fall, continue to water your newly planted trees until the leaves begin to drop. Evergreens should be watered well until the ground freezes. This will typically occur by mid November.
HOW DO I CHECK MOISTURE LEVEL OF SOIL?
Easy- use a trowel , screwdriver of rod to probe the soil and look for moisture. Alternately you can dig down a foot or so with a shovel and check soil. Is it powder dry? Is it muddy and saturated or just right? Extreme dryness or moisture means you need to adjust your watering schedule.
MULCH IS A GOOD THING!
Mulch is woody organic matter that acts a blanket to hold moisture and moderate soil temperature extremes. Especially helpful during our chinook weather and temperature fluxuations. Mulch also keeps weed growth down and helps maintain moisture levels. A 2” to 4” application is ideal. When placing mulch take care not to cover the trunk as this may cause decay. Pull back mulch at least 3-4 inches from the trunk of your tree after application of mulch.
Additional tips for success:
- Keep grass and weeds away from the base of the tree.
- Maintain a ring of mulch around the tree approx out to the dripline for smaller trees and about 6 ft in diameter for larger trees.
- Do not water the trunk of tree or let wet mulch touch the trunk.
- If you have irrigation, be sure to monitor during wet weather so plant material does not become oversaturated.
- Mark watering dates on a calendar so you don’t forget when to water
- Watch for foliage wilt or brown needles of young trees as this may indicate need for more water.
- Yellow leaves and black or brown spots as well as wilting of young shoots can indicate overwatering.
- Water in the early morning or in the evening to prevent evaporation in the heat of the day
- Know your tree. Different species of trees can have different water requirements.