Critical:  Water Your Mature Trees!

gillnurseryBest Practices, Timely Tips27 Comments

During current drought conditions, it is critical that you water your established, mature trees. Of course, we want to make sure we take care of plants and lawns too, but be sure your trees are getting enough water. Here’s how. 

Trees, especially mature shade trees, provide huge benefits for our environment and they’re difficult and expensive to replace. How could you even put a price tag on a 30-year-old mature Oak tree? 

With summer temps and a lack of depth moisture in the ground due to drought conditions, mature trees need a slow, deep watering every 2 to 4 weeks. If your trees are showing signs of stress, (looking dull, dropping leaves), water them deeply once a week to rehydrate. You can accomplish proper, deep watering by placing a sprinkler between the trunk of the tree and the drip line (edge of the tree canopy) and running it for 45 mins. Then, move the sprinkler 1/3 of the way around the tree and repeat until you’ve watered all the way around. Check your sprinkler placement to be sure you’re not watering the street, the sidewalk, etc. Here’s a simple top-view illustration. 

It’s critical to water trees sufficiently and create depth moisture now in case the drought is prolonged. The more stressed trees get, the more difficult it is to bring them back to good health.


27 Comments on “Critical:  Water Your Mature Trees!”

  1. Good information. My Heritage Oak is looking OK but I think I’ll begin watering. I use a Ross root Feed her to water mine moving it from place to place like your diagram. Thanks

    1. Bill, make sure you don’t push the tip of that root feeder down anymore than 6-8 inches. Most of the roots of the oak will be in the top 18 inches.

  2. I have a question concerning Poinciana tree. Mine got cut down with the freeze but I saved one pod a friend of mine got it open and now I have five little trees growing in a pot 5 gallon pot. I’m not sure how long I should keep them in the pot before planting them in the ground? What’s the best way to make them grow and develop into a beautiful tree, should I keep trimming the leaves on the top till the bark is heavy and strong enough? And if it’s sitting in my yard so it can have full sun how am I going to keep the root from growing into the yard? I’d like them to be planted around a playground because they have no shade. I thought I would grow them until next year and maybe have some boy scouts plant them for me.

    1. I would suggest planting those trees into the ground in late October or anytime November. Best to let them get some good root growth over the winter time before facing another hot summer.

  3. Thanks Deanna. Helpful information. I will try that watering technique. I’m worried about our trees. We have to balance our tree/plant watering with current water restrictions in our neighborhood.

    1. Then Marie, I suggest you stretch your watering to the longest interval, that is a deep watering once a month if we don’t get any substantial rain.

  4. In 45 years living in Texas I’ve NEVER experienced this : o

    The ground is dry no doubt but my neighbors fence ; you can SEE down deep in the ground AND, putting your Fingers in the crack by the fence post you can FEEL AIR MOVING : o

    Very freaky….

  5. Thank you for all info. I had a beautiful Bottle brush tree, It froze 2 yrs ago with freeze. I did not dug it out I did cut it short, its grown not about 5 ft. all bushy. will it ever bloom again. Do i leave it bushy.
    thank you

    1. Bottlebrush can be trimmed to just one or three trunks, but I prefer mine to have more trunks than that. So if you just let it grow I think that’s good.

  6. Thank you for this critical information. The trees are so beautiful and harbour so much life! I also left some water for the animals, but I haven’t seen many birds come to drink and no squirrel. I am worried. Have they migrated where it is less dry? How about the humming birds? I am not used to them since I am new to this part of the world, but I want to help them. Is it the season to provide food for them?
    I put some pebbles in bird bath so bees can also drink.

    1. Keep fresh water out, they will find it and they definitely need it. Hummingbird migration is September and they will need food also. Oranges cut in half on fence spikes will also feed nature

  7. Thanks for the confirmation. Some of the ground cracks go down about 20 inches. The subsoil moisture is critical. What about installing a PVC pipe to attach to a hose?

    1. Susan, most roots are in the top 18 inches so no need for moisture to be injected lower than that. Best watering is just a long and slow soaking from the surface, a soaker hose would be ideal.

  8. Keep fresh water out, they will find it and they definitely need it. Hummingbird migration is September and they will need food also. Oranges cut in half on fence spikes will also feed nature

  9. We have mature mesquite with a trunk that is beginning to separate into two directions. Any suggestions?

    1. I would contact an experienced tree service to see if some select pruning can be done to balance the weight. Many times a bolt and cable system needs to be installed to prevent further separation. We recommend Tree Amigos. John is also an arborist so he should be able to help.

    1. Do you have room to place a pulsating sprinkler to shoot under the deck? Could you serpentine a soaker hose under the deck over the root system.? You have to get water to the root zone from under or through the deck, but only once a month since the trees are established and shaded.

  10. A Magnolia tree perhaps 40+ years old is showing signs of stress. I have been using a probe to water the tree 24″ down. Should I water at a more shallow depth?

    1. Wild olive trees are from a very dry region, primarily northern Mexico, and are very well drought adapted. A very smart landscaper I know always planted his on a mound so they would dry out faster. Once a month watering would not hurt but I would say that unless it’s a newly planted tree it doesn’t even require that much to survive.

    1. It’s normal for trees to cast off leaves during a drought condition. So recognize that leaf drop Is part of the trees way to adjust to drought. But a little help from you with an occasional deep watering will be appreciated. Just don’t water frequently, Unless the tree was planted in the last year or less

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