watering new trees

JesseJune 23, 2011

I just planted 12 new trees here in north-eastern Kansas.

5 Oklahoma Redbuds - about 5'

1 marma maple - about 8'

1 red (Shumard) oak - about 10'

1 other oak (not sure exactly what kind), about 8'

2 silver maples - about 8'

2 river birch - 1 is about 15' and the other about 20'

All of them were in pots except for the river birch which were burlap. They all look amazingly healthy.

My question is how much to water them. I am assuming that the river birches, because of the nature of the tree and the size, will take a decent amount more water then the others. Right now I use 5-gallon buckets with a couple of holes drilled in the bottom of them for slow release of the water. I fill them up every day with the birch every couple days with the others for right now.

Any watering tips? How should I water, and how often?

I think we planted them well - dug roughly twice the size of the root ball and loosened the roots for those in the pots, and backfilled with some of the previous dirt and some compost and topsoil. I used root stimulant too.

Thanks in advance!!

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Dan Staley

Water as needed. Use your finger and ensure they don't dry out nor overwatered.

ackfilled with some of the previous dirt and some compost and topsoil. I used root stimulant too.

Whoops. Hopefully they will overcome it.


    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 8:07PM
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Nice! I am new here too. I have learned to water deeply and weekly only as to avoid overwatering. Or as per soil texture knuckle deep.

There are a lot of people here that know their stuff and would not have used any soil amendments. More than likely, you are fine. Trees are tough.

Now, if I can practice what I preach with my dogwoods, I will be ok! Lol

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 8:18PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)


Take a look at the planting instructions linked below. I think you will find them helpful for future planting endeavors. The 5-gallon buckets are a great idea, and I use them to some degree, myself. Here are a few of things to keep in mind regarding watering.

1. You should check the soil in and around the rootball to ensure proper moisture levels, and not depend on a watering schedule. Soil at the level of the rootball should be kept moist but not wet. The soil surface should dry just a little in between waterings.
2. Longer (deeper), less frequent watering is much better than shorter (quick), frequent watering.
3. In sites with improper or poor drainage (for example, where the backfill soil has been amended), it is possible for the rootball to remain soggy while the surrounding soil dries out or for the rootball to dry out while the surrounding soil maintains adequate moisture.

Here is a link that might be useful: Planting a Tree or Shrub

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 9:18PM
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Thanks for the tips! Wow! I SO wish I would have had that link before we planted the trees!!! That prompted some other questions...

I left the burlap on both of the river birches...should I and is there a way to remove the burlap from the trees?

Also, I didn't use any original soil with the river birches (because I unfortunately assumed it would be better), so, if I was to dig up some of the soil around the tree, should I do that and replace it with the original stuff?

Fortunately, I used mostly original soil and a bag or two of amendments on the other trees. Yeah, Dan, I REALLY hope these trees pull through. There is SO much mis-information on the web! That's where I got the other planting info that I did. :( I appreciate the advice on watering. It makes a lot of sense.


    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 10:03PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

burlap - Many nurseries still leave the burlap in place (just removing any bindings around the top). Personally, if I were in your place, I would consider digging down and removing the burlap from at least the top eight or ten inches. Removing it from below the rootball would have minimal, if any, benefit and would be a lot more trouble. It's your call (you are the one that has to do the extra labor), and there still disagreement (whether misinformed or not) in the field about what's best. If it were my trees, I'd do it, but some people might think I was nuts.

replacing original soil - Ideally, original soil would definitely be better, but how much problem the alien/amended soil will be depends a lot on the relative difference between it and the surrounding native soil. For the totally different soil, I would base my decision on how different the soil is. If it's not that much different (particle-size and texture wise), you'll have to weigh the possible benefit against the extra labor. If it's a lot different, I'd get the shovel and wheelbarrow ready. For the amended soil, there may not be much you can do, since you no longer have the original, unamended soil to replace. If the amendment accounted for only a small percentage (maybe less than 15% to 20%, and partially based on the soil types involved) of the total amount of soil, I wouldn't worry about it, because it probably won't make a whole lot of difference in drainage or root development. If the amendment comprised a larger percentage, I would be more concerned.

There are so many variables on things like this, it's hard to give a definite answer. Trees can overcome non-ideal situations, but often do live shorter lives, in landscapes compared to in the wild, largely because of the poor planting practices so prevalent in today's nursery industry and bad advice often passed down without question.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 10:58PM
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Thanks! You gave me something to think about. I think the other trees will be okay with that information. If I remember correctly we did use a fair amount of amendment for the redbuds out front, but the soil is higher quality there, so hopefully that will help.

It is extremely disappointing to learn that the trees may not live as long as a result of the poor planting practices! As a result I think I may go ahead and replace the amendment with original stuff. It won't be the exact original dirt but from the yard so it will be overall very similar. I actually put all the excess dirt, when we planted the trees, into a big pile in the back of our lawn, and covered it with a tarp in case we needed it.

There is quite a difference in the soil quality between the amendment and the clay that is in the yard. Where we planted one of the birches it was really bad hard clay, and the other (bigger) one had much better soil around it.

Is there anything I should watch out for in digging the amendment back out?

Thank you so much!

    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 7:45AM
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Saturday project: dig up river birches, cut out as much burlap as possible and backfill with original soil.

One other question. All of the other trees are staked (not the river birches). They had very little root support and were almost planted bare roots because we loosened them up a lot. Should we pull the stakes, except for the one helping the tree grow straight up?

    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 10:35AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

things to watch out for - Be careful to minimize any further root damage and don't leave pockets of the different soil. Varying soil types are better thoroughly mixed than in pockets (or separated). That's all that comes to mind right now.

stakes - If you feel the stakes are necessary to stabilize the tree until the roots start to become established, by all means, leave them. Some of the sizes you gave above are pretty big for "very little root support", without proper staking. If, on the other hand, the stakes aren't serving a purpose, the trees will benefit from their removal.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 1:39PM
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Sounds good. I will be very careful in digging the soil out. I may end up digging some of it with a small hand shovel - we'll see. I'm thinking it won't be a terribly hard thing to do.

I understand about the stakes. I think I will leave them on for a couple of months and up to a year, and then take them off.


    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 1:44PM
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I had some boxwood planted about three years back next to a retaining wall - probably too close to a retaining wall. They were balled and burlaped. The nursery instructions were to leave the burlap intact. As someone mentioned earlier, there are different viewpoints on this. I've been told that some nurseries use burlap that breaks down faster - in which case those are the nurseries telling you (me) that it's ok to keep the burlap intact. Other burlap is not so easy to break down, in which case you would follow instructions to remove it.

The second year of my boxwood there was dieback. We didn't know what the problem was - we assumed, at the time that the rootball was just planted too close to the retaining wall. So, we moved them back but kept the burlap intact. The burlap was still in place as it had been when we planted it a year earlier. Only AFTER we dug them out and transplanted them were we told on this forum that we SHOULD have sliced openings or removed the burlap, suspecting that may have contributed to the dieback.

In any case, I'm happy to report that our boxwood grew back lush and beautiful this year - with the burlap intact. But, in the future, I will ALWAYS remove the burlap, or at least score it around the rootball, at planting time regardless of what the nursery says. I trust the information I receive on this forum, and have learned A LOT. Like you, most people only make it here after they've already encountered a problem.

I realize this wasn't your question, but wanted to share since you mentioned they were B&B trees.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 7:46PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

There are actually multiple types of burlap used on nursery stock (to varying degrees). They include synthetic-fiber burlap (very long lasting), mixed-fiber burlap (partially very long lasting), treated natural-fiber (fairly long lasting), and multiple types of untreated natural-fiber burlap (still lasts long enough, in many situations, to negatively impact root system formation). My feelings on the untreated-natural fiber burlap is that it often impacts root system formation, but trees are tough and adaptable enough that they can frequently, at least partially, overcome the impediment.

The other day I was doing some consulting work for a client having a few decent sized trees planted in a lawn. The nursery doing the planting did not want to remove the burlap and told the client that their ability to complete the job was contingent upon leaving the burlap in place. After the nursery had gone, I peeled back the burlap from along the top of the rootballs. On the third tree, I found a large girdling root growing at least half way around the circumference of the trunk, right on the surface. You can't always see these kinds of defects from just removing the burlap, but it can at least allow you to determine the level of the root flare and possibly eliminate some surface root issues.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 9:23PM
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OK. It just rained here this morning so it will delay the digging job. Hopefully it will work out later today. I plan to cut out as much of the burlap as possible. From what I've gathered, it's not doing a lick of good in there right now. The good part was we did untie the top and just lay the burlap down in the hole. We found some major girdling on some of the potted trees.

The cool part was that they pulled the trees out of the ground just a couple of hours before they were planted, so hopefully the roots are in relatively good shape.

The more I think about it more it makes sense to swap out the soil - as much as possible. The dirt that was around the root balls of the birches was decently bad dirt and even had some gravel in it.

thanks alot!

    Bookmark   June 25, 2011 at 11:46AM
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Yes! Got a bunch of the ("good") bad dirt pulled out from around the trees and replaced with original dirt. At least dirt from the yard. Also, I cut out as much burlap as I could. I tried pulling it out from under the one tree but failed.

As we dug down, removing the soil from around the one tree, the ditch started filling with water and the soil was completely waterlogged. It is hard to explain but basically it's in an area where there is a bit of a low as water from the front yard goes back towards the stream - some 250' feet away. The depression is ever so small, and almost could be missed (I've only seen water actually flowing through this area once during torrential downpour), if not known it was there. I honestly don't think this will be a problem and I think it could be just a natural way to water this "river" birch but should I watch for anything just in case?

    Bookmark   June 25, 2011 at 9:35PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Doesn't sound like the slight depression will be a problem.

You sound like a hard worker! I need you out at the farm (-:

    Bookmark   June 25, 2011 at 10:42PM
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General rule for watering is 5-10 gallon for each inch of trunk diameter. Where I'm at in hot dry Tx, I would water something planted now about twice a week for 6 weeks, then
cut back to once a week. Once trees go dormant in fall/winter, cut watering back to once a month or every other week if no rain.
For staking : stake now if needed, at end of summer loosen up an inch or two of slack, next spring another inch or two of slack, next fall after that another inch or two or remove entirely.
Good luck with your trees.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2011 at 12:29AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

I really disagree with scotjute's advice! Watering schedules (amounts, as well as times) like that would result in VASTLY different results in different locations and with different soils and climates. It might work in his yard, but wouldn't be workable in some other locations. Until local conditions are understood to the point of being able to predict how much water is needed, testing the soil for moisture levels is really the only way to be sure your plants are being properly watered.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2011 at 12:51AM
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Thanks - I'll check the moisture. My guess is the one in the slight depression will likely need less water then the others.

I have one concern though. The marma maple out front is starting to look kind of sad. The leaves are turning a brownish color - almost like it has a lot of greenish/brown spots all over every leaf. The leaves look somewhat wilted as well. The soil around it holds water really well, but I haven't watered it for awhile because of that. Any ideas on what is going on?

I will check to see how damp the soil around it is next time I can.

Thanks, guys for the advice. You're helping my trees out a lot. ;-)

    Bookmark   June 26, 2011 at 1:21PM
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Actually, the other two maples are taking on those same symptoms, and the oaks are to a lesser extent. Do you think it could be some sort of fungus, because the soil has been so wet recently?

I'm quite a newbie when it comes to trees.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 4:34PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

My guess would be transplant shock due to planting this time of year. Planting a tree this time of year is somewhat like making someone run a marathon after recuperating from leg surgery. When B&B trees are dug a majority of their root system is lost. Now the trees are trying to get by on just a portion of what they used to have. In this heat, that can be an uphill climb. My suggestion would be to keep them well watered and be patient.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 10:21PM
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Thanks. That's encouraging. I will keep them watered and wait.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 4:19PM
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what do you guys think of those moisture, PH, and light meters they sell at Lowes? it seems like pretty darn simple science. i got one, dipped it in water and it read "wet." i wonder how accurate these are in 5" deep of soil.


Here is a link that might be useful: I BOUGHT THIS ONE

    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 10:21PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Its great to see folks taking time step by step to help out others...hopefully someday the masses will say NO to burlap at planting. Same goes with soil amendments.

The best free advice you'll ever get is right here.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 10:37PM
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joserobl(5 IL)

Hey everyone new to the forum and I like all the good info that's available but sometimes it's difficult to find specific subjects. So I'm in the process of planting 8 4ft container Thuja Green Giants. I know it's important to keep them well watered and I've read that a drip irrigation system would be the way to go. But can a soaker house acomplish the same thing? I'm looking to space them 6ft apart and a 50ft soaker hose would cost $10 verses a drip system close to $100. Has anyone done this?

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 12:28AM
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Yes, a soaker hose should work fine, too. But I'm a little perplexed why a drip system would cost you $100. You can buy cheap, complete kits to do small numbers of plants (usually 10-12 per kit) with everything you need for under $20, except that you might also want to add an automatic water timer, another $15 to $40 depending upon how fancy you buy.

I bought some of the kits in the attached link on sale for $5 a pop a couple years back at Harbor Freight Tools.


Just saw something very similar at Lowes on a display rack near the garden center checkout, I think they were about $20 and I am pretty sure they were also complete kits.


The only real difference between drip and a soaker hose is that a soaker hose is going to put out water along the entire length. When using on trees and shrubs, obviously, it will waste some in between each plant -- probably not a big deal unless you live in a place where water conservation and/or water bills are a big deal.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 5:42AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

what he said.. but i will try to clarify ...

a drip system is ENGINEERED to deliver.. a precise amount of water out of each dripper ... over a given time... so you pay a bit more.. for the knowledge ... of how long you have to run the water.. to deliver proper water at depth ...

the problem.. with the recycled tire hoses.. is that you really have no clue how much water is coming out of any specific spot in the hose ... it may all come out the close end.. or the far end.. of somewhere in the middle ... etc .. depending on curves.. hills .. elevation.. etc ....

followup water is the BIGGEST variable in success.. especially.. since you are planting a bit late into season.. being real close the the heat of summer ...

and let me put it this way.. probably exaggerating ... to make a point ... you are investing $400 bucks [50 per tree] ... for large specimens.. and now going to chintz out on spending another 50 to insure the survive.. where is the logic in that ...

i am glad you searched old posts.. to get a feel for the previous.. but once you did NOT find what you were looking for.. with specificity ... you should have started your own post.. if for no other reason.. the replies would come to your mailbox if you marked that box..

and also.. because a new post with a good title.. may have made other peeps interested..

otherwise.. for all i care.. you could have posted this in the pepper forum ...

good luck

do you know all about .. PROPER PLANTING.. and PROPER WATERING.. on your new conifers.. which are trees??? .. see link


Here is a link that might be useful: everything here.. is imperative

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 8:01AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

I'll never buy another one of those cheap soaker hoses again. I've found that they are unreliable (don't water uniformly), short lived (usually start clogging up, breaking down, and developing squirting holes in about one year or less), and cost much more than drip irrigation in the long run. I can get a drip system for just a little more than soaker hoses and am MUCH happier with the drip system!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 10:42PM
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Just dropping into this thread to hail another bass player! Or do you do strange things with fish?

While I finally got sick of the life just in the last few years, I have played bass, and other instruments, on stages from Chicago to Las Vegas, and pretty much everywhere in between. I'd direct you to some web pages, but honestly, my interest has dropped off so precipitously that I'm not even sure our old Myspace and other assorted sites are still up and running!


    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 11:05PM
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joserobl(5 IL)

Thanks Denninmi, for the links your right after doing a little shopping around found some kits that were more reasonable I just wish i would of seen that one on Harbor Freights kit. I ended buying one today at menards by Rain Bird for $15.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 9:36PM
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joserobl(5 IL)

Ken thanks for your help also, and since I'm new to this forum I'm still trying to learn how to navigate threw it. When I posted I really thought I had started a new thread. I also thought this went to the tree forum. In fact after posting I could not find it I had to contact the forum to help me. So sorry for that. Your also right about how I shouldn't be chintzing out on a good irrigation system after spending good money on trees not quite that much. So I ended buying a small drip kit. Even though I didn't have to spend alot it's better then the soaker hose. you mentioned planting a bit late into season.. being real close the the heat of summer. also do I know all about .. PROPER PLANTING.. and PROPER WATERING.. on my new conifers.. which are trees??? Yes I'm aware of all that from reading on this forum. But quite honestly it gets a little difficult weeding out the right from the wrong. Example; Some say do not amend the soil some say do amend the soil. Some say fertilize some say don't. Some say plant in spring for best results, some say plant in fall, better cause you get two seasons for root growth. But these trees are still being sold in the summer, and some say if you just make sure they are kept watered you should be ok, there are people that say follow the instuctions that the plant came with. So who are you to believe if they have had success?

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 10:18PM
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Hi all,

I just planted a Kousa dogwood (labelled "Samaritan") and just wondered if anyone knew what to do, or what not to do, if some of the leaves are reddish brown. I assume its being underwatered, because the leaves feel a little crispy. This tree is in a full sun environment, but the leaves are variegated, so I am worried that it should have shade, but I have no where else to put it. Any thoughts?

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 3:16PM
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