With the drought conditions that we have been experiencing, this spring and now into summer, everybody is looking for some kind of relief for their lawns and gardens. Driving down the street you will see most yards have gone dormant without any rain. In this vast landscape of brown yards, you will see some yards with lush green grass and vibrant gardens. Those people have taken the extra steps and paid extra money to keep their yards as green as possible. But, in those same yards, as well as most yards, you may see trees that are wilting, leaves are turning brown, or their general appearance seems off. 

Trees are often forgotten when it comes to watering and are one of the most prominent and visual assets of your landscape. If they are remembered to be water, how to water them and what they need regarding water isn’t well known information to the average homeowner. Even the biggest, heartiest trees need waterduring drought periods. A simple rule that applies to most trees in our area is established trees need about 1” of water weekly. Newly planted, unestablished trees, need even more water than that. Below is a simple table laying out some watering guidelines for your trees –

Established Trees​​​1” of water/week, or 2 gallons per diameter inch during drought

Newly Planted Trees (Month 1)​​2 gallons of water per diameter inch – 3x per week

Newly Planted Trees (Month 2)​​2 gallons of water per diameter inch – 2x per week

Newly Planted Trees (Month 3)​​2 gallons of water per diameter inch – 1x per week

Newly Planted Trees (Month 4 – 1 year)​2 gallons of water per diameter ich – 2x per month

When we are not getting consistent rain to suffice this amount, watering needs will vary depending on the size and type of tree. Never when you water should you focus on spraying the foliage of the tree, simply focus on getting the water to the ground below the dripline of the tree. Apply the water directly to the root ball area on newly planted trees. There are many ways to get water to trees from sprinklers to open hoses to driplines. I want to talk about watering bags for trees, often referred to as gator bags in the industry. Although, there are multiple types of watering bags for trees including gator bags, tree diapers or donut watering bags. Each one serves a similar purpose of deep root saturation, tree diapers or donut bags are typically used on conifers with low lying branches, while gator bags are commonly used on deciduous trees with easier access to the trunk. There are multiple manufacturers that make the different watering bags.

Watering bags make watering very easy and highly efficient for your trees. The commonly seen watering bag in our urban forest are gator bags. Those green looking tarp bags that you see around the trunk of young trees. These bags typically hold around 20 gallons of water, are zipped up to keep them fastened around the tree and take less than 5 minutes to fill. Gator bags can be used on any size tree, but commonly utilized on newly planted or transplanted trees. A single bag will easily fit around a 1”-4” diameter tree. For a larger 4”-8” diameter tree you can zip together 2 bags, or more than 2 bags if your tree is larger than 8” diameter. Holes in the bottom of the bag allow the waterto release slowly from the bag and into the soil around the base of the tree. Unlike sprinklers there is no water lost to evaporation. It can take 5-9 hours for the bags to empty and typically filling is done every 5-7 days depending on the heat. This kind of slow release, deep-water saturation promotes deep root growth and helps in the reduction of transplant shock & drought stress. Many people like the fact that they don’t have to stand there watering the trees or constantly moving the hose or sprinkler around. They like that it takes less than 5 minutes to fill and then they can move on to the next thing on their list. Not only are gator bags good because of the job they do but visually they are a good reminder to keep your new trees watered. That is the biggest challenge of watering trees, remembering to do it. Even with a watering bag, it is very common to take a walk on the sidewalk or in the park and see a gator bag on a tree. It is also very common unfortunately to see that bag bone dry and providing no benefit to the tree. Keeping these bags filled consistently during a critical stage in a tree’s life is the key to establishing and sustaining a valuable asset to your landscape and our urban forest. At Kramer Tree Specialist all of the trees we plant come with a gator bag because we understand how important it is to keep your new tree watered. If you have difficulty watering trees, we can also help you out with that. Maintaining trees in our urban forest is critical not only for healthy trees, but also for healthy communities!

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