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Watering Newly Planted Trees

Watering Newly Planted Trees

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Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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Planting nursery stock continues throughout the season and can be done safely and correctly. Encourage a vigorous root system by watering to a depth of 12 to 18 inches below the soil surface. Mulching around the tree base reduces soil moisture loss, improves water and air penetration into the soil, and keeps soil temperature above freezing or a longer time in the fall. Selective removal of crowded, interfering or weak branches is the only pruning that is needed at planting time.

Proper soil preparation before planting often makes the difference between success and failure. Soil preparation promotes favorable growing conditions by improving drainage and reducing compaction.

Transpiration occurs throughout the year, but the amount of water lost increases dramatically with foliage growth. Moisture stress often occurs in summer-planted trees because the tree transpires more water than the root system can absorb. Severe moisture stress weakens trees and can even causes death.

Trees require water, but improper watering can cause more harm than good. Overwatering is a major cause of failure. Excess water forces oxygen out of the soil and results in oxygen starvation of roots. This causes root to die and leads to decline of the tree and death of the plant. The leaves turn yellow starting with the inside of the tree and progressing to the outer leaves.

Avoid frequent light waterings. This promotes shallow root systems susceptible to winter drying and summer heat stress. Deep watering, to a depth of 12 to 18 inches below the soil surface, develops a vigorous root system.

Determine the length of watering by the moisture level of the soil just above the root zone. This area contains most of the tree's absorbing roots, generally 6 to 10 inches below the soil surface. Use a trowel to dig down 6 to 8 inches at the edge of the planting hole. If the soil at that depth feels powdery or crumbles when squeezed in your hand, water the tree. Soil that forms a ball and clings together when squeezed contains adequate moisture.

Mulching around the tree's base reduces soil moisture loss, improves water and air penetration, and keeps soil temperature above freezing longer in the fall. These conditions promote root growth and improve tree vigor. Wood chips or shredded bark can be used for mulch. Cover the root ball area with mulch about 3 to 4 inches deep. Avoid mounding mulch next to the tree trunk.

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