Watering Trees


Trees clear the air, provide homes to wildlife, offer shade for picnics, and, without trees, there would be no tree houses or tire swings. They also add value to your dwelling, increasing the visual appeal and adding to the livability of your home.  Trees are a vital part of our lives, directly and indirectly.

The drought that hit the United States has damaged or killed millions of trees. Texas has been particularly hard hit but the damage extends from New Mexico to Florida. By one estimate, Texas has lost approximately 500 million trees, with other states suffering various levels of damage. Unfortunately, the drought is predicted to continue through 2012.

The question then becomes: what is the best way to water a tree? Ideally, the method chosen will provide the greatest amount of benefit to the tree while using the least amount of water.  The first thing to know is where to water your tree. Watering directly at the trunk is not only a waste of water but can promote some diseases. There are a few simple guidelines to follow for established trees.

First, the water needs to get to the roots. Watering too little, or just surface watering, will cause shallow roots, weakening the tree and leading to more drought damage. Deep watering to about 10” to 18” inches below the surface is best, depending on tree size. The older, more mature tree the deeper you should go.

For most trees, irrigate within the drip line. The exception is evergreens, as they tend to grow up and not out. For these, imagine the drip line to extend a couple of feet outside the physical drip line.

This Drip Line is basically the furthest most extent of the leaves, as shown in the picture of the tree. Inside this area is where the plant is growing smaller roots known as Feeder Rootlets.  These absorb moisture and nutrients from the soil.

The objective is to water slowly, dispersing the flow of water to get the water deep down to the trees roots.

Don’t dig holes in the ground in an effort to water deeply. This exposes the roots to air and dries out roots even more. Watering at ground level with a sprinkler system does help. However, running your sprinkler system long enough to provide sufficient water for trees would result in a great waste of water in other areas and increase chances for water runoff.

There are a number of ways to provide water at the proper rate and in the proper place, saving both the tree and water. The first, and simplest, is through the use of soaker hoses. Simply place rings within the watering area and turn the system on. The water goes where it is needed with little waste. The disadvantage is the labor involved in placing the hose, turning it on and off, removal and replacement for mowing and raking, and the possibility of damage to the hoses, requiring replacement. While efficient in water placement this method does require a bit of effort.

A more efficient method is the use of deep watering systems. One system involves using tree watering stakes. These range in lengths from 14” to 36”, connect to your watering system, either drip or garden hose, and put the water where it can be best utilized. This way the roots are sure to receive the water without worry of wind or run off.

Finally, there is a root watering system that attaches directly to your irrigation system. These provide the needed water and have minimal visual impact on the yard, as they are installed at grade. Since they are attached to your irrigation system you have the ability to set the watering schedule as needed without the frequent labor needed with soaker hoses or garden hose attachment.

Whichever system you choose, the key to tree survival is proper watering. Too much, too little or watering in the wrong place can cause further harm to the tree. Proper watering can extend the life, health and beauty of the tree for years to come.

For more information about anything involving irrigation, please visit us at www.SprinklerWarehouse.com.

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