Watering trees in turf creates a water management opportunity
Turf is typically watered with spray heads, which are not designed to provide a deep watering. Planting trees in turf creates some issues for irrigation. Watering trees is very different than watering your turf. Watering your trees properly may require some out-of-the-box thinking for your irrigation system, but the results will reflect positively on your landscape’s most valuable asset.
- Create a separate watering zone.
Your trees need to be on a separate valve from your turf. In general, trees should be watered enough to penetrate the soil to a depth of at least 18 inches. This means you are probably going to have to dig a few ditches to lay additional irrigation pipe. Considering the length of time you hope to have the tree, trenching is a sound investment as it will enable you to water your trees less frequently and much deeper. This will improve plant health and water conservation.
- Deep watering is important.
One of your main goals for tree watering is to encourage the tree roots to grow deep. This will help your tree become more drought-tolerant. You will need to water your trees less than you water your turf, but the time of watering will be longer. This longer time will push water down deep into the soil and the tree roots should follow.
- Too much water kills.
When you overwater, the water takes the place of oxygen in the soil and your trees will end up drowning. Make sure your soil drains properly and consider purchasing a soil moister probe to allow you to see how well the water is penetrating the soil. These are relatively inexpensive tools that are easy to use and provide great information about how much water is in your soil.
- Make a well around the tree.
The first year of watering for a tree can impact its growth for life. Since the root ball is small when trees are first planted, it need more water around the base. When you first plant a tree, it’s critical you water the root ball completely. If you make a well around the tree, you automatically divert water to the root ball.
- Move the water away from the trunk.
Think about how your tree receives water naturally. Water hits the tree canopy, runs off, and drips down onto the soil. How can you reproduce that effect? Try moving drip irrigation away from the trunk as your tree gets bigger. This will encourage wide and deep root growth, which is essential for tree health.
Often, trees are the most valuable part of our landscapes. According to the USDA Forest Service, healthy, mature trees add an average of 10 percent to a property’s value. Having to replace a tree is costly and often takes years to replace the full value. Paying attention to the specific water needs of trees can pay healthy returns to a property.