Tips For Irrigating Trees: Learn How To Water A Tree

Two Kids Watering A Tree
tree watering
(Image credit: herjua)

People can’t live very long without water, and your mature trees can’t either. Since trees can’t speak up to let you know when they are thirsty, it’s a gardener’s job to provide sufficient tree irrigation to help them thrive. How much water do trees need? Irrigating trees is not an exact science, but if you follow a few general guidelines about watering trees, you’ll do just fine. Read on for information on how to water a tree as well as basic tree irrigation guidelines.

How to Water a Tree

It pays to learn how to water a tree, including where to put the water, what time of day you should be irrigating trees, and how much water is necessary. Although everyone knows that young, newly planted trees require regular water, it’s easy to overlook the needs of mature trees.

The idea of watering trees is to get moisture into the soil that a tree’s roots can access. That means that you need to be irrigating the soil above the tree roots. This is usually the area under the tree canopy. A tree with surface roots will require less water than a tree with deep roots.

Irrigate your tree in the area under the canopy. That’s where most of the water should go. However, watering trees just beyond the canopy edges is also good since it can encourage a tree to develop longer roots. Don’t water in the heat of the day since evaporation is a given.

How Often to Water Trees?

For best tree irrigation practices, you need to give the tree adequate water at regular intervals. The goal is to prevent the tree from suffering from significant plant water stress.

On the other hand, overwatering is one of the primary killers of trees. This can be caused by giving a tree too much water or irrigating a tree too often, but it can also result from poor drainage around the tree. So check drainage before you develop an irrigation plan.

In times of drought, water mature trees once a week at a minimum. You can also determine whether a tree requires water by poking a sharp stick or long tool into the ground. If it goes in easily, the tree doesn’t need water. If it doesn’t, the soil is dry and the tree requires water.

How Much Water Do Trees Need?

How much water do trees need to ensure the maximum plant growth and vitality? This depends on various factors. One factor is the height and breadth of the tree. Bigger trees need more water.

Another factor is the weather. Since hot weather causes water to evaporate both in the soil and from tree foliage, you want to water more in summer than in cooler seasons. The type of tree is also important since some trees require less water than others.

In general, you should irrigate deeply and slowly, providing enough water to penetrate at least the top 12 inches (30.5 cm.) of soil. Soaker hoses work well for this. If the site is level, use a basin placed at the tree’s dripline as a watering gauge tool.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.