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With over 90% of Texas in drought conditions, water conservation measures are in effect over much of the state. Caring for our urban forest during a drought requires special attention to our watering practices to ensure that trees get the water they need and none is wasted.

Do I Really Need To Water My Trees? I Have a Sprinkler System!

Yes! Even if you have a sprinkler system or regularly water your lawn, you need to water your trees as well.

  • In-ground irrigation systems and hose-attached sprinklers are designed to provide water for turf grass and other ground cover.

    • Some sprinklers may be able to provide more water for small shrubs and bushes, but none of them are adequate to meet a mature tree’s water needs.

  • If a tree is not properly mulched, it may be in competition for water resources with other plants.

    • If there is artificial grass present, water and nutrients in the soil may be scarce.

  • Without adequate water, trees’ immune systems weaken, leading to increased susceptibility to disease and insects.

    • Repeated, long-term stress from lack of water can lead to a cycle of decline and tree death.

What is the Best Way to Water My Trees?

There are two main ways to get sufficient water to your trees: using a soaker hose or hand watering.

  • Soaker Hose

    • Recommended for ease of use and coverage

    • Make sure the hose can cover the entire root zone

      • Depending on the type, hoses can be arranged in circles or a spiral around the tree or in radial lines leading out from the trunk

    • Run the soaker hose long enough to wet the ground in the root area to a depth of 10-12 inches

    • Check the soil to see how long it retains moisture and only water after the soil has dried

      • Too much water can be as bad as too little

      • Generally, watering should be every 7-10 days

  • Hand Watering

    • Place a garden hose so that the outlet is 1-2 feet from the root flare of the tree

    • Turn on water enough to spread, but not so much that it puddles or streams away

    • Move hose around tree to ensure even watering of entire canopy area

    • As with soaker hoses, stop watering when soil is damp to a depth of 10-12 inches

    • Wait a few days and check soil moisture

      • Re-water when soil is dry to avoid excess dampness

  • Special Considerations

    • Some trees may require watering more often

      • Stressed/sick trees (such as by freeze damage or pest activity)

      • Non-native species

      • Recently-planted trees

    • During periods of wet weather, do not water too often

      • Excess soil moisture can cause rapid growth of harmful microorganisms

How Can I Help My Trees Retain Moisture in a Drought?

After watering, mulching is the most effective way to regulate tree moisture. Proper mulching helps regulate soil temperature, slows evaporation, and contributes to soil nutrients as it breaks down.

Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers and growth stimulators, as these can cause a tree to use up energy stores and require more water to maintain. Organic soil amendments and compost can be added to soil and mulch if needed.

At Texas Tree Surgeons, we love trees and we love our community! While the summer months can be fun, the drought conditions they often bring can be stressful to people and plants. Proper watering of our urban forest leads to healthy trees that can help regulate heat, provide shade, and keep the air fresh. Have questions about how best to care for your trees during drought? Contact us today!