Watering Trees in the Urban Environment

Watering Trees
Extension Agent Arnold Brodbeck, of Auburn University Cooperative Extension, describes effective ways to water newly established trees. Credit: Priya Jaishanker

Research into the management of urban trees has shown that the frequency of watering is more important than the quantity of water used. Trees should be watered two to three times per week, with each watering using two to three gallons per inch of the tree’s diameter. Some people will try to save time and apply the equivalent amount of water for a whole week at once. This method is very ineffective, as it does not allow the water to slowly infiltrate deep into the soil. This results in the water running off from the tree and onto nearby plants and the tree not receiving enough water.

There are several methods for watering trees that require little time investment and provide optimal results. Gator bags and other similar devices release water slowly over time, allowing for proper infiltration into the deeper reaches of the root zone. These bags only need to be filled up two to three time per week and can be left unattended, as opposed to watering the trees with a garden hose. A similar device can easily be fashioned from household materials. One can drill small holes in the bottom of a five-gallon bucket to allow water to slowly leak out onto the tree’s roots over a period of one to two hours. If this method is used on a slope, the bucket should be placed on the uphill side of the tree so that the water flows past all of the tree’s roots. 

Watch the video Watering Trees in the Urban Environment to learn more. This video is part of a series, Trees for Energy Conservation, developed by the Southern Regional Extension Forestry and Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension with funding provided by a National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council grant.

Written by: Connor McDonald, Southern Regional Extension Forestry