How To Conserve Water and Keep Your Trees Healthy

Certified Arborists Serving Ventura & Los Angeles Counties

News And Advice From The Leading Thousand Oaks Tree Trimming Company

This drought we’re in the middle of is no joke. It’s prompted government agencies to impose water restrictions that most people in the Conejo Valley have never had to endure, starting with rules guiding many residents to water their lawns only one day per week. While lawns can be restored fairly easily once the drought ends, trees are another matter. If you deprive a tree of water to the point that it dies, it will take years to restore your natural surroundings. That’s why authorities encourage residents and organizations like the various park departments to keep our urban forest alive and healthy.

Still, there are steps you can take to both keep your trees healthy and conserve water. There’s not a single set of instructions that applies to all trees, though — guidelines vary based on soil type and other factors.

Newly Planted Trees

Trees that were planted early this spring have the most critical watering needs. These trees are still developing their root systems, and that applies to trees whether they were planted bare-root, from a container or if they were balled-and-burlapped. As a rule of thumb, newly planted seedlings need anywhere from a pint to a quart of water per day. Larger newly planted trees, ones that are six to eight feet tall, need about two or three gallons per day. Fortunately, that need was greatest during the first few weeks after the tree was planted. So hopefully you were able to irrigate your trees last spring with that amount of water. If that seems like a fairly large amount of water, the reason lies in the fact that transplants typically have fairly small root systems, and water can easily flow away from the roots before it has a chance to be absorbed. That’s also why it’s important to water directly next to the stem in the days and weeks after a tree is planted.

Mature Trees

Established trees do not require daily watering; weekly watering is much more in order. If you have a smaller tree with a trunk measuring about two inches in diameter (measured about six inches above the ground), it’s best to provide about 20 gallons a week. These trees are also creating larger root systems, so it’s effective to water in a diameter equal to about two-thirds of the tree’s height. Trees typically extend their roots out to a distance equal to their height, but the critical area is a little closer to the trunk.

Tips For Conserving Water

To keep your trees healthy and conserve water at the same time, try the following:

  • The best means of applying water for landscape trees is slowly with a soaker hose placed near the tree.
  • Water slowly. Soaker hoses and drip irrigation are good.
  • If you use a sprinkler system, be sure to water the soil under your trees, not the leaves. Adjust your sprinklers downward if necessary.
  • Water under the dripline (the edge of the branches) or a bit inside of that line, not near the trunk (unless the tree was planted in the last couple of years — see above).
  • Lay down a layer of mulch. Three to four inches of wood chips spread on bare ground helps reduce water evaporation, insulates the roots from heat and keeps the weeds away.
  • Avoid over-fertilizing your trees. It forces trees to use energy to process the fertilizer.
  • Avoid pruning branches. When you remove live tissue, it forces the tree to use energy to defend against the cuts.
  • Avoid digging under the tree’s canopy. That can kill small roots that absorb water.

Keeping your trees healthy during the drought is possible even during Southern California’s notorious years of light rainfall — especially if you follow these tips.