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Another installment in our series of posts where Texas Tree Surgeons answers your tree questions. Are you having problems with your trees and want to know what’s wrong? Let us know!

I have a sprinkler system in my yard. Do I need to do anything special for my trees?

We have discussed the watering needs of trees before, but proper watering is something that cannot be reinforced enough. Even when North Texas is not in a drought condition, the summers are long and hot and take their toll on every yard and green space.

While in-ground sprinkler systems can do a great job of providing water to turf grass and smaller landscape features, trees need particular care and attention when it comes to watering. Most sprinkler set-ups, unfortunately, do not provide enough water in the right areas to keep large trees hydrated. However, the simple addition of a garden or soaker hose to your watering routine can keep all your trees healthy during the hottest parts of the year. The best method of watering depends upon the age and size of the tree.

How Should I Water A New Tree?

Newly-planted trees are already in a vulnerable state, having been stressed from the transplantation process. Even when properly planted, a young tree can easily succumb to under- or over-watering.

  • Young trees require watering more often than older, established trees.
    • It can take some time to properly determine the best watering schedule for your trees.
  • To start, use a garden hose to water all around the root area of the tree.
    • If the tree has been well-mulched, you may have a small “basin” around the trunk.
    • Fill this area, let it soak in, and then fill it again.
  • After this initial watering, check the root area soil every two to three days for moisture.
    • Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty!
    • You need to feel how wet the soil is to a depth of 12 to 18 inches.
      • A screwdriver can be useful to test the firmness of the soil, but using your hands to feel for moisture is best.
    • If the soil is dry, water again.
    • If the soil is still wet, wait another day or two and check again.
  • The exact watering schedule for your tree depends on
    • Composition of the soil
    • How well the soil drains
    • Other plants competing for the water
    • Weather
  • Ideally, you want to keep the entire root zone moist, but not soggy, to a depth of 12 to 18 inches.
    • As the weather changes, be sure to adjust your watering routine accordingly.

How Do I Water a Mature Tree?

Watering a mature, established tree allows for a greater margin-of-error than tending to a newly-planted one. As trees grow, they develop the ability to store more water in their root systems so they can survive periods of drought.

  • It is important to water the entire root zone, under and beyond the canopy dripline.
  • Wet the soil to a depth of 12 to 18 inches.
    • Use of a screwdriver or other probe can be helpful in determining soil moisture below the surface.
  • Once the root area is properly watered, it may not need to be watered again for one to two weeks or more, depending on the weather.
  • Regular monitoring is key to maintaining the proper level of moisture.

Can I Water a Tree Too Much?

Trees, both young and old, are as stressed by too much water as they are by not enough. The signs of over-watering can often be mistaken for under-watering.

  • Soggy soil is the first and biggest sign of over-watering.
    • If there is standing water, or the ground is squishy, the soil is waterlogged and needs time to dry out.
  • Yellowing leaves can be a sign of both over-and under-watered trees
    • If the leaves are leathery, rather than dry, or hard to pull off the tree, it is likely that the tree has been watered too much.
  • Visible fungus activity, such as mushrooms at the base or on the trunk of the tree, is a sure sign that there is too much water present.

At Texas Tree Surgeons, we love trees and we love our community! The wet spring we had in 2020 caused a lot of fungal issues with trees in North Texas. Over-watering during the summer can extend the duration of those issues, or cause them to get worse. Under-watering during the hottest parts of the year can lead to tree decline and death. Don’t rely on your sprinkler system to do all the work! Check your trees regularly for signs of over- or under-watering and make adjustments as necessary. If you have any questions about your watering schedule or your trees’ health, let us know! We are always happy to have one of our arborists out to evaluate your tree and provide recommendations for how best to care for them.