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Right Amount When Watering Trees

So, what is “just right”? Is it moist, wet, or dry? When it comes to being wet, there are trees that are tolerant of wet soils, but few like to grow in wet soils. Why? Trees need oxygen in the root system to function and grow well. Trees such as swamp white oak, zelkova, willow, dawn redwood, river birch, serviceberry, persimmon, sweetgum, holly, magnolia, sycamore, black gum and alder are known to be tolerant of wet soils, especially ones that are intermittently wet.

The opposite is true for dry sites, where due to lack of soil moisture, tree roots simply dry excessively and wither and die, causing major stress to trees. Here the goal is to find the sweet spot and keep the soil moist, there are three main tolls or influencers – the devices, the methods and mulch. The devices that place water over the tree roots without spraying water high into the air are considered highly desirable. Such products include drip emitters, microspray heads, water soaker bags and soaker hoses. Applying 2 to 3 inches of a coarse, loose mulch helps keep soil moist, not dry.

Poorly drained soils: In soils that are poorly drained due to clay, compaction, wear or heavy traffic patterns, watering becomes difficult. These soils generally absorb water slowly and then hold it for a longer time as opposed to soils that are better drained. Probing soils with a long screwdriver will help determine the moisture content.

Excessively well drained soils: Usually, comprised of a heavy sand or silt content, these soils have the opposite problem, in they lack the capacity to hold water for a sufficient time for the plants to utilize it. On these sites, more frequent applications with lesser volumes are required to keep soils at the proper moisture level. Probing is useful to get a handle on the level of moisture between the soil particles.

Material published in the July/August Issue of Tree Services :

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