Young trees require additional attention during their first two years after planting as they struggle to survive in their new environment. Trees can lose 60 to 75 per cent of their roots during the digging process at the nursery. Newly planted trees require regular watering during periods when there is little rainfall. Some Arborists recommend watering young trees twice a week. Without new root development, they are less able to absorb water and nutrients. The first summer is the most challenging for newly planted trees. Watch for signs of drought stress which include wilting of leaves and new growth, scorching of the leaf edges and dry, curled leaves.
Besides keeping weeds down, covering the soil around the tree with an 8 to 10 cm deep layer of mulch material cools the root zone and reduces evaporation and creates a healthier environment for the soil organisms that are beneficial to the tree.
How Often and How Much Should I Water my young Maple Tree?
The timing, frequency and volume of water that is needed is dependent on the species and size of tree, the soil type (sand, loam, clay, silt), how well it drains, how long the tree has been planted and if the tree was mulched after planting.
There is no easy answer to, “How often and how much”? but there are some general guidelines.
CHECK THE SOIL
Use a garden trowel or spade to dig into the soil (near the tree) to a depth of 10-15 cm. If the soil is cool/moist to your touch, watering is not needed at this time. Check the tree again in another 4-5 days to determine when to resume regular watering.
TIMING & TECHNIQUE
Watering early in the morning or late evening reduces evaporation and helps the water soak into the soil. Use a watering can or a slow steady stream from a lawn hose to completely soak the mulch (or soil) around the base of the tree to a depth of 20-25 cm. This takes time and lots of water.
An alternate method, especially when you are unable to supervise regular watering, is to use a tree watering bag to slowly release water into the soil. Several brands of tree watering bags have come onto the market the past few years. Treegator® patented the concept.
Below are pics of the two most popular slow-release tree watering bags available here in Ontario. Prices range from $24.99 for Oasis at CTC to $29.99 for the Treegator Original Tree Watering Bags. These bags have a maximum capacity of 20 US gallons (75.7 L) and empty their contents over a 4 – 6 hour period with no run-off or evaporation.
A commonly used formula suggests a recently planted tree needs 10 gallons of water per week for every 1 inch of tree caliper, so be careful not to overfill these bags when watering smaller caliper trees.
An inexpensive homemade alternative is to use a 20 litre bucket and drill 1/8 inch holes in the bottom. Place the bucket close to the base of the tree and fill 4 times (normal) or 8 times (drought) per week.
AMOUNT OF WATER
A general rule of thumb is to apply 45 liters (10 gallons) of water for every 2.5 cm (inch) of trunk diameter during normal watering conditions. The amount applied per watering remains the same but the frequency is doubled to twice a week during drought conditions. This gets the water deeper into the soil where the tree’s roots are and encourages the formation of deeper roots on the tree. This is beneficial to the tree as the availability of moisture increases with soil depth. Watering should moisten the soil to a depth of 20-25 cm. around the tree.
Sandy and loamy soils absorb water more quickly than heavier soil types and drain faster requiring more watering, more frequently. Compacted soils or soils with higher clay/silt content require longer times to become wet and stay wet longer. Care should be taken not to allow heavier soils to become in a constant “wet state” due to frequency and amount of water applied. Good soil aeration is required for healthy root growth and tree survival.
To help new trees get established, landowners have to make up for what Mother Nature is not providing. Helping young Maples through difficult times will encourage more growth when growing conditions improve.
- Watering Your New Tree (PDF) – Kitchener’s Urban Forests – www.kitchener.ca
- How to Water Trees With Buckets – Amelia Allonsly, DM – www.homeguides.sfgate.com
- How much water does my tree need? – Deborah Benge-Frost – www.oaoa.com