It can be hard to judge exactly how much water you should – or shouldn’t – give a tree. Generally speaking, trees drink a fair amount of water so they should be fine, but all trees act and respond differently, and thus need to be treated differently to ensure they grow as well as they possibly can. Just like if you were to put too much water into your body, overwatering a tree will eventually lead to getting it getting sick and likely dying. Nobody wants that, so it’s important to watch how much water your trees get!
Common Signs of Underwatered Trees
- Wilted or curling leaves that may turn brown at the tips or edge
- A sparse canopy of off-color and undersized leaves, leaf scorch or yellowing leaves
- Untimely fall color and early leaf drop
- Even if you have a sprinkler running your trees likely need a bit more water. The grass is going to draw in the majority of that water, plus trees prefer getting water way down in those absorbent roots.
Root rot is one of the worst diseases a tree can get. It will attack the roots of your tree, spread around, and eventually cause it to die. Root rot is generally caused by your roots just sitting in water, when they should be just moist at the most.
Testing the Soil Around Your Trees
Testing your soil is a lot easier than it sounds. All you need are either a screwdriver or a shovel. Here are the two ways that we recommend checking.
- Quick and easy check: Stick a long screwdriver into the soil below your tree. If the soil feels dry and compact and you can’t easily get it in there, that’s a good indicator that it’s too dry. And if you pass through like a hot knife on butter, you’re likely overwatering.
- Precise-as-can-be check: Below your tree, dig 6-8 inches deep and grab a handful of soil. Your soil should be cool and moist. If it’s soaking wet and barely holds together then you’re watering way too much. If it’s a completely dry and dusty crumble that falls apart in your hands then you’re likely severely underwatering.
It truly is as easy as that to get a rough idea of your soil moisture so you can decide how to best adapt your watering practices to protect your trees.
Recovering from Overwatering
Don’t worry, even if you have been overwatering your tree for quite a while, chances are good that a change in habits right now can help save your tree. Here are the three big tips you need to follow.
- Stop. Don’t water your tree for at least a week or two. Before you go to do so, check the quality and wetness of your soil one more time to ensure you aren’t still going to be overwatering
- Fix. If you have clay soil, mix in into your dirt to improve future draining. This is not a must-have, only worry about it if you have a big problem with water or it’s not too out of your way.
- Inspect. After it rains, see if there’s water pooling around your tree and find out where it’s coming from. Is water running downhill and landing at your tree’s base? Does your rain spout empty right near your tree? In some situations, it may be best to move the tree outright.