Adequate water is the most important consideration for the survival of a tree. As a rule of thumb, newly planted trees need at least ten gallons of water a week. This can be accomplished by setting the watering hose to a slow trickle and allowing the entire area around the root system to become saturated. A slow 1-inch rain should compensate for the required watering. Climate, soil, site conditions and tree species will dictate the amount of water required. For example, during extremely hot weather more water will be required.

It is important that the total root system of the tree receives moisture. As the tree grows the watering system will need to be adjusted to compensate for the extended root system. Sprinkler systems must be programmed to provide adequate water for various plants. Sprinkler systems for turf areas generally apply enough water for the shallow roots for the lawn.. To supply sufficient water for the tree root zone, the watering schedule will need to be increased. Check the soil to insure water is reaching into the root system. All trees and shrubs require water year round. To supplement the plants water requirements during the winter months, soak the soil around the plant before the ground freezes.

Trees that have been impacted by construction will require additional watering until the damaged root system has had time to redevelop. Watch for water collecting on the soil surface as this is an indication that compaction has occurred. Aerating the soil and applying compost will help correct this problem.


The first step to applying fertilizer is to take a soil sample to the county extension office and request a test for your soil. The test will tell you what elements if any are lacking for the particular tree you are trying to grow. Healthy trees do not require fertilization.

Newly planted trees should not be fertilized. Trees respond much better to composted materials. They provide beneficial organisms that improve the soil and root absorption.

A method for fertilizing larger trees is to incorporate a granulated fertilizer into the root zone. This can be accomplished by punching holes fifteen inches deep in a circular pattern around the tree, beginning halfway between the trunk and the dripline. Stagger the holes so the fertilizer is distributed evenly around the tree. Another method for fertilizing trees is by a broadcast surface application. A granulated fertilizer is spread evenly over the ground surface above the root zone. It is best if the fertilizer is watered in or applied directly before a light rain. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for application rate. Do not fertilize trees in late summer or early fall and when a tree is stressed due to heat or dry conditions.

Insects and Disease

The best defense against insects and disease is to keep the tree in a healthy condition. Regular inspections of plants can help prevent serious problems from occurring. When a problem is detected and cannot be diagnosed consider the following:

  • Do other trees nearby have the same problem?
  • Has the area been treated recently with pesticides?
  • Has the removal or addition of topsoil disturbed the area?
  • What has been the past weather conditions in the area?
  • Is there any evidence of damage to the trunk system?
  • Are the leaves wilted or an odd color?

For further assistance consult the county forester, county extension agent, a local nursery or a certified tree specialist.


  • Mulch is important to the long term health of the tree. It will moderate soil temperatures, conserve water and reduce weed competition.
  • Mulch the tree yearly or as needed to keep a three inch mulch around the base of the tree over the total root system. Do not push mulch against the tree trunk.
  • Keep lawn mowers and weedeaters at the edge of the mulched area to prevent trunk damage. The damaged area provides an opening for insects and disease.
  • Watch for insects and disease in the mulched area.
  • Use organic materials that will help improve the soil as they break down.
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