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How to Care for New Plantings and Trees

Watering

This is the most crucial part when you have planted a tree, shrub, or perennial. The question of how much water needs to be applied needs to be addressed. The amount of water needed depends on the plant you have and the time of year it is planted. Spring plantings where temperatures are cooler and rains more plentiful require less than summer plantings when temps are hotter and rains less frequently.  Fall plantings are similar to spring in temperatures with the potential for fewer rains.  The volume of foliage (leaves) will influence water needs as well. Example: A tree will need more water than a small perennial.  Most newly installed plants require at least an inch of either rainfall or supplemental water each week.  Weather conditions affect the rate of water consumption of plants as well. Hot, windy, summer days dry out plants quicker than calm, cooler, shady days. It takes roughly 8 weeks for a plant’s roots to reestablish in the soil. Once they start to develop new growth that is a good sign that they are rooting in.  Back off watering after this occurs but continue to monitor them. This is the golden rule for new plantings, water deeply but infrequently. Light, infrequent watering’s encouraging shallow root growth, whereas infrequent deep watering’s encourage deep root growth.  Remember roots seek out areas where the moisture resides. Correct watering methods will encourage your new plants to develop robust deep root systems and increase their drought tolerance. Talk to our wonderful staff if you have additional questions as to your plant’s needs.

Trees

Trees need water to survive.  The small moisture-absorbing roots will get damaged during planting, resulting in transplant stress. Keep in mind, newly planted trees need to be kept moist but not to the point of being saturated. They will need to be monitored weekly to ensure the root ball does not dry out. The outer band of the root ball will need to be watered to encourage root growth out into the existing soil.  Some sites may have been compacted from construction leading to poorly drained soils.  In these situations, trees should not exceed 1 inch of water per week. If the tree gets more water than this, it will get over watered. A good rule of thumb is to water no more than 2-3 times a week. As an easy gage for watering, we like to say a minimum of 5 gallons per week on potted trees (15-gallon pot size or smaller) and a minimum of 10 gallons on larger balled and burlaped trees (3” to 1.5” caliper in size). Supplemental water may not be required during the rainy seasons.  However, it will need to be increased in the summertime i.e. June, July, and August; they most likely will need more than 1 inch of water to establish. Repeat this routine throughout the growing season. The simplest way to check if your tree needs water is to pull the mulch back from the trunk and pick up a portion of the soil. Compress the soil and make a ball.  If the soil is very sticky, it is too wet and will have to dry out for a few days. If the soil is dry, it will not form a ball. The correct amount of moisture allows for a ball that is not sticky. When you are ready to water, there are a few ways you can do so:  Option A: Water with a garden hose on trickle for 30 minutes.  Option B:  fill 5-gallon buckets as described above.  Option C: Fill up 20-gallon self-watering bag which is available for purchase at the garden center.

The leading cause of death in trees is overwatering. This occurs most often in irrigated lawns with automatic sprinklers. Be aware that your turf requires more water than the tree itself.  So that is why you cannot water your lawn every day. Back the timer off to no more than 2-3 times a week. Going into winter it is wise to give your new trees a deep watering. Trees should go dormant with a moist root ball to protect the root system through the winter.

 

Perennials & Shrubs

Perennials and shrubs will require less water than trees do. New plants need to be watered a minimum of twice a week or every four to seven days. Be sure to allow for them to dry out a little between watering. But be careful to water accordingly on hot days. The amount of water varies on the type of plant you have. Example: Hydrangeas will take a lot more water compared to a drought-tolerant sedum.  Large leaves dry out quicker than small leaves. Plants with leaves tend to dry out quicker than evergreens with needles. Once your plants have made it through the first year you can reduce the amount of supplemental water you give them. Continue to monitor your plants, severe temperatures, and or droughts that can place even established plants under undue stress.