Watering Your Trees and Preparing for Summer Drought

Trees can suffer from summer drought stress as temperatures rise and rainfall decreases. Proper watering is crucial for keeping your trees healthy during a dry spell. Whether you’re an experienced gardener or new to tree care, our essential tips will help your trees survive the hot summer months.

Getting Ready for Drought

  • Pruning: Time dead or excess branches to reduce the tree’s watering needs
  • Mulch: Apply a layer of mulch around the base of the tree, about 2-4 inches thick. Mulch helps retain moisture by preventing water from evaporating too quickly, regulates soil temperature by insulating the soil from extreme heat or cold, and reduces water evaporation by acting as a barrier between the soil and the air. To apply mulch correctly, start a few inches away from the tree trunk and spread it outwards in a donut shape. Don’t pile mulch against the trunk to avoid rot.
  • Improve Soil: Add organic matter such as compost to enhance soil quality. Organic matter improves soil structure, making it easier for roots to grow and access water and nutrients. It also increases the soil’s ability to hold water, reducing the need for frequent watering. Healthy soil retains moisture better and provides essential nutrients.
  • Check Soil Moisture: Use a soil moisture meter to monitor the soil’s water levels. This is important because overwatering can lead to root rot, while underwatering can cause stress and damage to the tree. Adjust your watering practices based on the moisture readings.
  • Shade Protection: Consider providing temporary shade for young trees to reduce water loss and heat stress.
Close up shot of the spraying a garden plants against plant diseases, bugs and pests

Watering Tips

Deep Watering

Water your trees deeply but infrequently to encourage deep root growth. Unlike shallow watering, which only wets the surface and can lead to weak roots, deep watering helps trees grow strong, deep roots. Aim for soaking the soil to a depth of 12-18 inches.

Consider using a tree watering bag, especially for young or newly planted trees. These bags slowly release water over several hours, ensuring deep soil penetration.

Watering Schedule

Establish a regular watering schedule. Water early in the morning or late in the evening during drought to minimize evaporation. Water newly planted trees once a week to keep the soil moist but not too wet. Mature trees usually need water every two to three weeks during dry periods. Water your trees early in the morning or late evening to reduce water loss from evaporation.


Stay updated on weather forecasts and adjust your watering schedule for drought conditions. Regularly check soil moisture by digging a small hole near the tree’s roots. The soil should be damp but not soggy. Regularly inspect your trees for signs of stress, such as wilting, yellowing leaves, or premature leaf drop. Adjust your watering as needed.

Knowing How Much Water Trees Need

Different trees need different amounts of water depending on their type, age, and location. Unlike lawns, trees benefit more from soaking their roots thoroughly. Generally, trees need deep, occasional watering rather than frequent, shallow watering.

Signs of Under-Watering

Signs include wilting or drooping leaves that feel dry and brittle. The leaves might start turning yellow or brown, beginning at the edges. The tree might drop its leaves early to save water in severe cases. The soil around the tree will often be dry and hard, with little moisture, even a few inches below the surface.

Signs of Over-Watering

You might notice the leaves turning brown at the edges and falling off prematurely. The soil around the tree will often be consistently wet or waterlogged, which can lead to root rot and mold. Another sign is the presence of fungus or moss growing at the tree’s base or trunk.

Rain tree with green leaves sprawling shade on green grass

Get Professional Help

Properly watering your trees is essential to prepare for summer droughts. Follow these tips to keep your trees healthy during the hot, dry months. Regular care during the summer helps roots grow strong and keeps your landscape hydrated. If you need hands-on help, we recommend talking with a professional arborist to check your trees’ health and watering needs. Abbott Tree Care’s arborists can advise you to keep your trees thriving in dry spells.

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