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Trees should be watered once every seven to ten days. The moisture level should reach twelve inches deep to help develop a strong and deep root system. The root system of most trees spreads out over an area one to two times the diameter of the canopy. A tree with branches that spread out 10 feet (3m) on either side of the trunk can have roots extending out 20 feet (6m) on either side of the trunk. The roots near the trunk are the larger anchorage roots, while the smaller feeder roots are located farther away from the trunk.

When water is applied to the soil it seeps down through the root zone very gradually. Each layer of soil must be filled to "field capacity" before water descends to the next layer. This water movement is referred to as the wetting front. Water moves downward through a sandy coarse soil much faster then through a fine-textured soil such as clay or silt.

If only one-half the amount of water required for healthy growth of your garden or landscape is applied at a given time, it only penetrates the top half of the root zone; the area below the point where the wetting front stops remains dry as if no irrigation has been applied at all.

Influence of Soil Type on
Water-Holding Capacity and Water Use
  Water-Holding Capacity
inches of water per foot of soil
Days to Use
Soil Type Total Water Available Water Available Water*
Loam 0.6 - 1.08 0.4 - 1.0 2 - 5
Sand 2.7 - 4.0 1.3 - 2.0 2 - 5
Clay 4.5 - 4.9 1.8 - 1.9 9 - 10
*Assuming an evaportranspiration rate of 0.2 inches per day and a 13 inch deep root zone. Shorter root system would take less time to use available water.

Homeowners over-fertilize trees, encouraging rapid, succulent growth. This growth is usually not as winter-hardy as normal growth, and thus more susceptible to winter injury. A another drawback to over-fertilization is that it will cause trees and shrubs to grow too large. Common tree and shrub fertilizers include 16-20-10 and 10-30-10. These are high analysis fertilizers that will satisfy both the nitrogen and phosphorus requirements of the plants.

Fertilizers do not directly provide food for trees. Trees produce their own food (sugars, carbohydrates and starches) in their leaves, through the process of photosynthesis. Fertilizers provide the source of the nutrients required for photosynthesis. Not all trees require fertilizer, but all trees require the nutrients available in fertilizers. In the forest, many of these nutrients are recycled as the leaves fall and decay back into the soil.

Fertilizers encourage growth, and therefore all fertilizers should be applied in early spring just before growth occurs. Basically all forms of fertilizer are suitable, although slow release fertilizers may continue to release nutrients well into the summer when it is not recommended. Late summer fertilizing is not recommended as it will encourage succulent growth which will be more prone to winter injury. Fall fertilizing is also not recommended, as leaching of nutrients is possible in both fall and spring.

Consider the specific diseases a plant can tolerate in relationship to the site in which it will be planted. Use specific varieties of trees compatible with the planting site. Selecting the right tree for the right location is critical to the survival of that tree. Understand how shade promotes specific diseases when combined with excessive rain and determine which type of irrigation will work best for a specific type of plant. Recognize the effects of overcrowding and the need for increased air circulation. Sometimes it is necessary to actually remove a tree to promote air circulation and healthy growth.

More Information . . . .

DATABASE OF TREES To access tree database click DATA on the left Main Menu on the next screen.

Grounds Maintenance Professional magazine for grounds professionals.

International Society of Arboriculture

Proper Tree Maintenance

Tree Care Industry A trade association of more than 2,300 commercial tree care firms and affiliated companies. We provide continuing education, training, conferences and publications to promote the safe and appropriate practice of tree care. Click on the publications link, then click on a magazine link for current news.

Text links To Verticillium Wilt, Abiotic Factor and The Polar Vortex information


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