Rainy spring days may seem wet to us, but what about the trees? Often the moisture during late spring and early summer is not adequate for trees planted within the last several years. Remember, those young ones need to re-grow all the roots they lost when they were transplanted to their new location. They need to put on new branch growth and leaves that will feed and develop new roots. Without adequate moisture soaking into and through the soil to the root zone (18-24” below ground), tree growth is slowed and they are likely to start showing signs of drought stress.

Your tree is planted… make sure it stays alive!

The City of Tacoma June 2012 Urban Forestry Program Update listed some easy methods homeowners can use to water their trees:

  • Ice. Use ice blocks or ice cubes if you have them readily available. Place next to the trunk over the root system and walk away. The ice will melt slowly and deliver the water to where it’s needed with little work on your behalf!
  • Buckets. Clean 5 gallon buckets can be repurposed into tree watering devices by simply drilling several small holes around the bottom of the bucket. Place next to the tree trunk, fill up once a week and walk away. If using for street trees, we recommend you reclaim your buckets after watering as they sometimes grow feet.
  • Bags. There are a number of bag watering systems available at local hardware and box stores-ranging from bags that would last a season or two to bags that would last for several years, bags that carry 5 gallons and bags that carry up to 20 gallons and prices ranging from $5 to $25 each.
  • Hose. This is our least favorite method of direct watering. Not only does it take more time (we like to spend our time doing other things in the garden), but it also has a tendency to not deliver the water directly where you want it since most of it flows away from the root system-leading to wasted water. Lastly, it’s pretty difficult to be accurate in knowing how much water is actually getting delivered to the tree’s root system while you’re standing there. But, if we had to choose between no water and hose watering, we would choose hose watering. (Editor note: if you use slow dripping soaker hose and circle it around the tree, hose watering can be very effective; but make sure to leave it on for an extended period of time.)

While you’re watering, make sure mulch is not sitting against the trunk of the tree. This could cause rot or encourage burrowing rodents to enjoy a tree snack that can severely damage or kill a tree.

And make sure weed whips come nowhere close to the trunks of young trees! String trimmers cut right through young bark and can seriously injury or kill the tree.