Elisa Shackelton: Are you watering your trees enough?

Extension Connection

Whenever a fire ban goes into effect, you know it is really hot and dry out, which also is a good indicator that your trees are experiencing drought stress, also.

Many people think that if their lawn is getting enough water, their trees also are getting enough.


Trees need to be watered deeply and slowly, and depending on their size, this can mean watering one tree for a couple of hours per week.

Did you know:

• Tree roots are not like carrots. Tree root systems can spread two to three times wider than the height of a tree. Most of the tree's absorbing roots are in the top 12 inches of the soil. Water should be applied within the dripline of the tree.

• Water deeply and slowly. Apply water so it moistens the critical root zone to a depth of 12 inches. Methods for watering include a deep root fork or needle, a soaker hose or a soft spray wand. Apply water to many locations under the dripline. If a deep root fork or needle is used, insert the device no deeper than eight inches into the soil.

• How much water should you apply? As a general survival rule, apply 10 gallons of water for each diameter inch of the tree. For example, a 2-inch diameter tree will need 20 gallons per watering. Use a ruler to measure your tree's diameter.

• How often should you water? The following are recommended watering schedules for trees during drought conditions or when watering restrictions are imposed:

Small trees (1 inch to 3 inches in diameter) weekly - 10 gallons per inch

Medium trees (4 inches to 8 inches in diameter) three times monthly - 10 gallons per inch

Large trees (10 inches and bigger in diameter) twice monthly - 15 gallons per inch

• Mulch helps conserve soil moisture. Apply organic mulch within the dripline, at a depth of four inches. Leave a six-inch space between the mulch and trunk of trees. Mulch materials may include wood chips, bark, leaves and evergreen needles. Many people make the mistake of raking away natural mulch (needles, leaves, etc.) from around trees, which only adds to the trees' drought stress.

• Consistent moisture is needed. Stressed trees are more vulnerable to disease and insect infestations and branch dieback. Keep a watchful eye for anything that looks out of the ordinary, and contact your local County Extension Office or tree professional, when necessary.

Adapted from information printed by the Denver Community Tree Alliance. For additional tree care information and a printable watering schedule, visit its website at http://www.watersaver.org/saveourshade.asp or contact Elisa at the CSU Moffat County Extension Office, 539 Barclay, 824-9180.


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