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Dying isn't difficult. Even a baby kitten can do it.
Robert A. Heinlein

Watering Trees

How much should I water? How often should I water?

That depends.

General advice: For the first month water weekly with the same volume as the pot. E.g. a tree that came in a 2 gallon pot, should get two gallons a week.

After the first month, water once every two weeks, with twice the volume of the pot.

During the first two summers, water whenever the top two inches of soil are dry, with 1-2 times the volume of the pot, or 1-2 gallons per foot of height, whichever is larger.

Can you over water? Yes. If the soil is soggy, leave it alone. If the soil is moist to the touch 1" down, leave it alone. Over watering is easy in heavy clay soils

Can you underwater? Yes, If the soil is dry for the top several inches water it. Under watering is easy in sandy/rocky soils.

Help! How can I tell?

Dig a hole for your first tree. Fill it up with water, and go away and have a coffee. Come back, and top it up. Go do something else for an hour. Come back. If the water has only dropped an inch or so, you have a very heavy, slow draining soil. Pick trees that like wet feet. If the water has dropped 6 inches you have an average soil. Most trees will be happy. If the hole is empty, you have a fast draining soil. Pick trees that are drought tolerant, and don't worry about over watering.

You want to train your tree to become independent of you. If you water lightly and often, the roots will grow near the surface. I've heard of cases where drip irrigation was used with the water running right next to the trunk. The tree developed a nice compact root ball near the trunk. and when it was 15 years old, it blew over in a heavy wind. Didn't put out any anchor roots.

During the first year, watering near the trunk is a good idea. That's where all the roots are. After the first year however, water the drip line of the tree. This is roughly the midpoint of the root system.

Grass is very competitive for water. If you have grass within 2-3 feet of your young tree, you have to water for both the grass and the tree. Deep watering is essential. You wont be far off if you fill the tree's basin whenever you water the lawn for the first couple years. Once established most trees will have roots deep enough and far enough to ignore the lawn.

Exceptions to this are noted in the individual species and genus descriptions.

In mid to late August when the summer heat starts to wane, decrease your watering schedule. This encourages the tree to 'harden off' and start getting ready for winter.

When the leaves start to turn color you can give them a good deep soak. (Combine with your fall fertilizing) This allows the roots to pick up a bunch of last minute nutrients, and start getting ready for spring.

(The top stops, but the roots will keep going until the ground starts to freeze.)


Water weekly for the first month, keeping the soil moist but not soggy.

Water with less frequency, letting the top inch or two get drier for the the rest of the summer.

Water hard in the fall between leaf drop and freeze up.

Got something to say? Email me: sfinfo@sherwoods-forests.com

Want to talk right now? Talk to me: (8 am to 9 pm only, please) 1-780-848-2548

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Copyright © 2008 - 2016 S. G. Botsford

Sherwood's Forests is located about 75 km southwest of Edmonton, Alberta. Please refer to the map on our Contact page for directions.