How much should I water the tree I planted?  How often should I water the tree?  It just rained, should I still water the tree?  Do I need to the water the tree in winter? 

​When and how much to water are crucial to the long-term survival of a tree, but it’s really quite simple to give your trees the correct amount of water.  First you need to find out if your tree needs water now.

Scrape the mulch under the tree and dig down about 6 to 8 inches into the root ball.  A small garden trowel works ​great for this. (Picture 1)

Dig out a scoop of dirt and dump it into your hand.  Squeeze the dirt together.  It should easily form a clump that holds together.  The moisture in the dirt indicates that your tree has the right amount of water in the root ball and you can hold off watering for now. (Pictures 2-4)

If the dirt is dry and crumbles apart then the tree needs water, and if it is muddy and soaking wet, then the tree has plenty of water and needs to dry out.

The texture of the soil can affect this clump test, but it is a good general way to tell the amount of moisture in the soil around the roots of the tree.  If you don’t want to dig and test the soil every time, usually once a week is a good watering interval.

In the spring and summer months, we recommend watering a tree once a week for about three hours at a time.  If it gets really hot or windy, and the soil is drying out and crumbly, then you may have to water every 4-5 days.  Soaking rains can often give the tree the moisture it needs, but the dirt clump test will determine just how much water the tree soaked up.  

When we plant or move a tree, we install a drip irrigation system that evenly waters the tree around the entire root ball.  This is the best way we have found to water new trees because the slow drip saturates deep into the root system of the tree.  Watering every day for short periods or with lawn sprinklers only gets water to the surface roots and can leave the deeper roots dry.  Watering once a week also allows time for the roots to dry out and allows oxygen to return into the pores in the soil.  Constant water can drown many types of trees that are used to drier soils.

In the often dry Colorado winters, we suggest watering a tree once a month, especially for newly planted trees.  A drip irrigation ring can often be frozen, so placing a hose at the base of the tree and watering at just a trickle for a couple of hours will give the tree water it needs over the winter.  If there is snow on the ground, then hold off watering until it melts.

A tree is usually established 2 years after planting, and can usually survive on the water in the surrounding soil.  However, supplemental watering will help the tree through a dry year.  The dirt clump test will tell you if the tree could use some more water.  

If you have further questions about watering your trees, call Spalding Trees at 303-526-1256 or email us at

Tree Watering Tips

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