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Learn to plant and maintain strong, healthy trees that will thrive for generations.

Carings for Young Trees During a Drought

A small tree is likely less than 3 years old with a trunk measuring between 1 and 7 inches around. A medium tree has a trunk between 7 and 15 inches in diameter.

How much water does my young tree need?

It is imperative that young, small trees continue to be watered regularly during dry winter months. Five to ten gallons per week is recommended for a young tree.

During dry weather medium trees require water as well, however, weaning them slowly will help them adapt to their environment. Check the moisture of the soil to determine when your medium tree needs water.

Use the techniques below for both small and medium trees.

How often do I need to water?

Frequency depends on the temperature, shade cover, and presence of mulch. The best rule of thumb is “water when the ground feels dry 6-8 inches below the surface.” Watering once or twice a week is usually enough with the current climate conditions.

Trees don’t like soil that is constantly wet – it is best to let the ground dry out between watering. As the temperature increases water for a longer duration, check the moisture of the soil to determine the tree water needs.

What’s the best method to water my young tree?

Short answer: SLOWLY.

The best way to help focus the water on the tree's roots is to form a small temporary earthen berm/watering well around the tree, about 2 -3 feet in diameter and about 4-6 inches high, and fill it slowly by putting a garden hose near the base of the trunk and set it at a slow trickle so it flows over the rootball, and as trees get larger outside the edge of the rootball where roots are present. To figure out how long to leave the hose on, fill one 5-gallon bucket with your hose on a trickle and time how long it takes to fill. A drip irrigation system is also good or a soaker hose spiraled over the root area around the trunk.

If you are using gray water, pour it into a 5-gallon bucket with small holes in the bottom and set it at the base of the tree. This will allow the water to be delivered slowly to the tree's roots. Watering too fast will waste water because it will run away from the root area of the tree.

What if my city has banned outdoor irrigation?

Trees can be watered with “gray water” from your house. Gray water is water that has been lightly used for washing clothes, washing your hands,or showering. An easy way to collect gray water is by putting a bucket in the shower to catch the water while you're waiting for it to heat up. There are also gray water collection kits available online. 

Note: Don’t put too much gray water that contains non-biodegradable soaps and detergents around your tree. You may want to alternate gray water one week, hose water the next week.


Download our Tips for Drought Care for more information on keeping your trees alive and healthy during this historic drought.