Beginners Guide for Watering New Trees

Pick up a shovel and dig a nice hole,

Planting a tree is good for the soul.

Stand back, admire, that which you've done,

But know in your heart, this is only day one.

This beauty will grow, for generations to share,

If only your labors will tend to its care.

A quick soaking, weekly, is all that is needed,

Find a quick way, is advice to be heeded.


"How often should I water my trees?"

New trees should get a good soaking once a week for the first few seasons. Watering frequency can be significantly reduced after a few years, but be aware of abnormally dry weather.


Watering speed is important also, and mimicking nature is always the best approach. Since normal rainfall comes short bursts followed by a long drying period, supplemental watering should be also. During the dry cycle, the feeder roots are growing outward seeking moisture. This is the process of a root system becoming stronger, healthier, and more drought tolerant. Slow, constant watering should be avoided!


"Where? and how much?"


Small trees - 5 gallons of water will soak the entire root well of a small tree.

Larger trees - Watering should be moved away from the trunk and out to areas around the drip line. This encourages the root system to expand out of the original root-well, giving the tree natural stability and drought tolerance. Constantly watering trees around the trunk will result in a smaller, more concentrated root system


Mulching Trees

New trees - Apply a few inches of mulch to new trees. This controls grass and evaporation and looks nice.

Established trees - Mulch is not necessary but a few inches won't be a problem.

Don't do this! High piling of mulch is a very common mistake made by homeowners and even landscapers. The large pile on the left will eventually settle in on the root flare. When the root flare is covered, fungus and insects invade the cambium layer, weakening a tree as seen on the right. Ask yourself "Would this occur in a natural setting?" Answer: No

Tree Watering Systems Comparison

New trees need to be watered weekly to maintain a healthy, vigorous, establishment. This should continue throughout the growing season for the first few years. That's a lot of watering, and after a while it becomes easy to ignore. The secret to success is to start a watering "habit" that is fast, easy, and efficient! In this section we will visit some watering methods and discuss what you can expect each step of the way.

The most popular products are Tree Watering Bags, Hose-Fed Root Feeders, and Self-Contained Root Feeders. We briefly describe theory of operation, then grade each one for every step of the process.


TreeGator, Oasis, Hippo, Dewitt, King

These are tall 15-30 gallon bags that are mounted to the trunk of the tree and filled. They release the water through small emitters that slow drain time up to 8 hours.

TreeGator JR, Arborrain, Ooze Tube

Identical to the tall bags, but are a much lower profile.



Ross Root Feeder, Gardenia, Yard Butler

These are long probes that connect to a garden hose. You push them into the soil and use the hose line pressure to inject water.

Tree I.V.

This system is a 5-gallon pail that gravity-feeds water into the ground through a probe



Set-up (small trees) - All of these systems get an A, but if you have low limbs the tall bags can be impossible to use.


Set-up (larger trees) - The root feeders both get an A, but the bags get a D since they cannot be set at the drip zone. The drip zone is natures way of promoting outward root growth. This leaves a tree more tolerant to strong winds and eventual drought conditions when supplemental watering stops.


Filling - Tree I.V. is the easiest and fastest, so it gets an A. The open top is easy to fill from any source, including trailer tanks which is a big benefit for orchards. The bags get a C because they are simply too large for small trees and shouldn't be used on larger trees. The tall bags must also be adjusted while filling so the emitters work properly. The hose-fed root feeder gets a D because it takes too long watering one at a time.


Draining - Tree I.V. gets an A because it empties at the natural percolation rate of the soil. Bags are designed to water over several hours, but they still get an A since you don't have to wait. The hose-fed root feeder gets another D because you need to use a timer to turn it off.


Fertilizing - Tree I.V. gets an A for being incredibly easy to pour in liquid nutrients. The tall bags aren't too bad so they get a B. The hose-fed feeders get a C due to plugging and difficulty with the pelletized fertilizers dissolving. The low bags get a D for difficulty.


Durability - The root feeder products get an A. Bags all get a C. They can be damaged quite easily.


Portability - Tree I.V. gets a solid A. The "Fill and Haul" option allows the reservoir to be plugged, filled and transported to remotely located trees. Tall bags get a C. They can be remotely installed, but a separate water source must be used. Low bags and hose-fed feeders get an F for impossibility.


Cost - The hose-fed feeder gets the A since you only need one. The bags get a C. If you want to finish in a reasonable amount of time, you need one for each tree. Tree I.V. grades a B. You need an injector for each tree, but the buckets empty quickly and can be moved to other trees. There is also have a money saving option to use buckets you already have.


Final Grades:

Tree I.V. Portable Root Feeder:  A

Tree Watering Bags (Tall):   B-

Hose-Fed Root Feeders:   B-

Tree Watering Bags (Low):   C


Bear in mind that all attributes are weighted equally. Some may not matter in your situation and could change the final grades.