The Most Common Watering Questions

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We at Warner’s have been providing gardening help to generations of Northern Arizona residents for almost 50 years and in that time, there are questions that are just like perennials – they keep coming up every year. What are the best times to plant trees? How do you deal with garden pests? How much sunshine or shade does this plant or that one like?

But most often the questions turn to watering, particularly when it comes to trees and shrubs. So here’s a compilation of the questions we get most frequently about making sure your trees and shrubs have enough moisture not only to survive, but thrive.

How often should I water? Here are some general guidelines for trees and shrubs:

  • For the first three weeks of a new tree or shrub, you’ll want to water at least once a day with a slow drip for at least 20 to 30 minutes. If it’s particularly warm or dry, you’ll want to make that two or three times a day.
  • After the first month, switch to once every other day until the winter.
  • Trees don’t really fully establish their root systems until four years in, so in years two and three, you’ll want to water two to three times a week during the spring through the fall, dropping down to once a week after the tree is established.
  • During the winter, your watering can drop off to about once every three to four weeks.

Is it absolutely necessary to water in the winter? Isn’t the snow enough? Winter watering cannot be avoided. Snowfall should not be counted on for winter moisture; we could get a 3-foot snowstorm two months into the season, but those drier earlier months are enough to damage a newly planted tree or shrub. Also, keep in mind that a foot of snow might only work out to an inch of melted water, which might evaporate as quickly as it melts and not reach the bottom half of the root ball.

Can’t I just throw a five-gallon bucket of water on all of my plants? It is important to do a long deep soak instead of quick and heavy watering which the root ball doesn’t soak in very well (an hour soak is ideal). Our highly porous soil requires that slow trickle so that water doesn’t run off.

Will plants survive using reclaimed water or well water? Using reclaimed water is nice, but any well water or grey water has to be tested for salts and hard minerals. These elements can kill a tree over time if they build up in the soil.

I have a drip system, is it safe to leave town for a while after my plants are planted? Drip systems aren’t foolproof. Timers fail, malfunctions happen, hoses occasionally disconnect. So if you need to leave town, make sure someone is checking that your new tree/shrub is getting thoroughly soaked and your timer is running properly.

Do I still have to water if it rains? YES. Unless it rains consistently for 5-6 hours in the day, you have to deep soak. A typical monsoon lasts less than an hour and only wets the top 4 inches of the soil.

If you have any questions on watering – or any other gardening issues – please feel free to ask our experts here at Warner’s Nursery. We are happy to help.

Happy Gardening,
Misti Warner-Andersen