The Q&A Archives: Watering A Newly Planted Tree

Question: My friend gave me a maple tree to plant in my yard. I did this last weekend so the tree was dormant. Someone told me that if the tree was originally growing in soil that is clay the tree won't grow in soil that is a gravel or sand base. Is this true? I have been watering the tree heavy every time I get the chance also. Thanks for any tips you can give me.

Answer: If a plant is watered, fertilized and properly cared for under reasonable conditions, it will grow in whatever soil it's in. As for watering, be sure not to overwater, which is just as bad as underwatering. Too much water forces out any pockets of air in the soil, and plant roots need oxygen to survive.

Always water slowly, deeply and infrequently as possible to maintain a consistent soil moisture around the entire root ball until the tree establishes itself. Use a soil probe (any long, pointed piece of metal or wood to poke into the soil) to check how far water has penetrated. The probe moves easily through moist soil, but stops when it hits hard dry soil. For young trees, water should reach about 1 foot deep. For more mature trees, 2-3 feet. There are numerous variables involved for watering schedules, such as type of soil, how fast or slow it drains, sun and wind exposure at your site, temperature, age and condition of the plants and much more. It?s important to learn the specific needs of your landscape, both for its health and your water bill.

As a tree grows, its new roots tips, where nutrients are being absorbed, spread out laterally. If you are watering only at the base of the tree, it's not really being watered effectively. Expand your watering zone out PAST the tree's canopy, or drip line. As the tree grows, continue expanding that water zone. If you have an irrigation system, you need to move the emitters out. If you use a hose, just drag it out further. In any case, water slowly and deeply to ensure water penetration and to leach salts below the root zone. Don't fertilize until next spring. I hope this info helps! Enjoy your beautiful maple!

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