Watering Trees

Watering Trees

The water needs of young trees can vary depending on factors such as the tree species, local climate, soil type, and environmental conditions. However, there are some general guidelines you can follow to ensure the proper watering of young trees. 

  • A minimum of 15 gallons should be applied each time you water.
  • Weekly watering in spring to fall is ideal during the first two years.
  • Water twice a week during the summer.

Yellow Tags & City Trees


If you see these yellow tags on a tree in your neighborhood it means the tree was newly planted by the city and may need your attention. Richmond plants hundreds of new trees every year, but doesn’t have the resources to regularly water them. If you are able to, please drag a hose or a few buckets of water to these trees. 

  1. Establishment Period: The first couple of years after planting are critical for a young tree’s establishment. During this time, it’s important to provide consistent and adequate water to help the tree develop a strong root system.

  2. Frequency: Water young trees deeply and less frequently, rather than shallow and often. This encourages the roots to grow deeper into the soil. Generally, a deep watering once a week should be sufficient for most young trees.

  3. Amount of Water: A general rule of thumb is to provide about 10 gallons (38 liters) of water per week for each inch (2.5 cm) of the tree’s trunk diameter. For example, if a young tree has a trunk diameter of 2 inches, you would aim to provide around 20 gallons (76 liters) of water per week.

  4. Watering Techniques: Use a soaker hose, drip irrigation system, or a slow-running hose to ensure the water penetrates deeply into the soil and doesn’t just run off the surface. Watering in the early morning or late afternoon is ideal to reduce water loss due to evaporation.

  5. Soil Moisture: Check the soil moisture before watering. Stick your finger or a soil moisture probe about 2-4 inches into the soil near the base of the tree. If the soil feels dry at this depth, it’s time to water. Avoid overwatering, as overly wet soil can lead to root rot.

  6. Mulching: Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as wood chips or straw, around the base of the tree (but not directly against the trunk). Mulch helps retain soil moisture, regulate soil temperature, and prevent weed growth. Beware of Volcano Mulching!

  7. Adjust for Climate and Weather: During hot and dry periods, you may need to increase the frequency of watering. Conversely, during cooler and wetter periods, you can reduce watering. Pay attention to weather conditions and adjust your watering schedule accordingly.

  8. Monitor Growth: Keep an eye on your young trees’ overall health and growth. If you notice wilting, browning leaves, or slowed growth, it could be a sign of inadequate water or other issues. Adjust your watering regimen as needed.

Gator Bags & Street Trees


You may see these green gator bags on city trees planted on the sidewalk median in your neighbohood. Filling these with water once a week is enormously beneficial for our city’s tree canopy. There is a hole a the top and once filled they will slowly release water onto the root ball over the next 5 – 9 hours. Very little is lost to evaporation and none should be lost to run off. Filling the bag costs about 20 cents.