Lauren Fick: Watering newly planted trees and shrubs

Lauren Fick
K-STATE RESEARCH & EXTENSION

Newly planted trees have not established the extensive root system needed to absorb enough water during hot, dry, windy summers. Even trees two or three years old should receive special care.

Deep, infrequent watering and mulching can help trees become established. Newly transplanted trees need at least 10 gallons of water per week, and on sandy soils, they will need that much applied twice a week. The secret is getting that water to soak deeply into the soil, so it evaporates more slowly and is available to the tree’s roots longer. One way to do this is to drill a 1/8" hole in the side of a 5-gallon bucket and fill it with water. The hole should be near the bottom of the bucket.  Let the water dribble out slowly next to the tree. Refill the bucket once after moving it to the opposite side of the tree.  After this bucket empties, you have applied 10 gallons. Very large transplanted trees and trees that were transplanted two to three years ago will require more water.

A perforated soaker hose or drip irrigation can be used to water a newly established bed or foundation planting. In sunbaked soil, you may need to rough up the surface with a hoe or tiller to get water to infiltrate easily. It may be helpful to set the kitchen oven timer, so you remember to move the hose or shut off the faucet. If you are seeing surface runoff, reduce the flow, or build a berm with at least a 4-foot  diameter around the base of the tree to allow the water to percolate down through the soil, instead of spreading out.

Regardless of the method used, the soil should be wet at least 12 inches deep. Use a metal rod, wooden dowel, electric fence post, or something similar to check depth. Dry soil is much harder to push through than wet.

Lauren Fick is the Horticulture Extension Agent for the Cottonwood Extension District. If you have questions, she can be contacted by e-mail at lfick@k-state.edu or by phone at 785-628-9430 or 620-793-1910.