Tree Watering: Is there a magic formula?

Trees looking droopy? Follow these summer watering tips!
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By Erin Oliverio, canopy manager for city of Charlotte

Who wouldn’t love a magic watering formula for trees?! Unfortunately, there isn’t one. How often and how much water depends on the size of your tree as well as soil and weather conditions.

The first step is to check your soil. Using a screwdriver or garden trowel dig down about two inches in the soil and feel it. If the soil is dry, it is time to water.

The second step is determining the right time to water. Arborists recommend morning or evening so more water goes to roots and is not lost to evaporation.

And finally, be sure to water deeply. This requires slow watering, not a quick blast from a hose. There are many ways to get the slow soak to occur: a drip hose, slow trickle from a garden hose, or puncturing a 5-gallon bucket with small holes in the bottom and sitting the bucket over the root zone until it is empty (for larger trees you will have to do this multiple times in different locations).

Some other things to note about tree watering:

  • Too little and too much watering can cause the same signs of stress in trees. Check the soil before adding water, especially for older, established trees.
  • Newly planted trees need much more water than older trees. Water them every week, making sure they get at least an inch of water each week.  One 5-gallon bucket or a rain event should do the trick.
  • A rain gauge is a great way to know how much water your tree is getting.
  • Mulch is a tree’s best friend – it keeps the soil from drying out. Be sure to keep it off the trunk!
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