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Proper Watering Helps Trees Survive

Editor's note:  Ken Hughes is the Superintendant for the City of Norwalk. Below, he shares some insights about how to make sure your new trees and shrubs survive their move to your yard.

The most important thing you can do to increase the chances that your new trees or shrubs will survive is to water them properly. This is especially true towards the end of the spring planting season when temperatures start to rise. Transplanting a plant, either from a new container, or from a different site, puts a lot of stress on that plant. Anything we can do to alleviate that stress will help with its longterm health.

The best way (other than Mother Nature) to provide adequate moisture is to hand water, making sure to provide long, deep soaks. A mistake homeowners (and some contractors) make is to blast the tree with water, check to see that the top of the soil is wet, and then move on. What they don't realize is that the soil below, where the roots are, is not even damp. Some of the root balls on new nursery stock can be as hard as concrete, and a deep soaking gives the water time to penetrate the solid root ball.

On many occasions, hand watering is not always an option, due to time, equipment  and labor constraints. Several companies have introduced “water bags” that are capable of holding water, then slowly releasing it to the plant. The bags sit on top of the soil and wrap around the tree. Holes or slits in the bottom allow the water to release slowly to the plant. The benefit to this type of watering system is that the bags give the trees the slow, deep soaking mentioned above. They can also save on labor, as a person does not need to spend much time watering each plant. There are some downsides, however. Water bags can be expensive when dealing with a lot of plants, and labor is also needed to fill the bags. Occasionally, the bags fall prey to vandals who break or steal them. The best advice is to use whatever method works best for your particular situation. Above all, the thing to remember, is “just add water.”

Have you planted a new tree this year? Were these tips helpful? Leave us a comment below.

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