As Michigan’s dry spring transitions into summer, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) urges tree owners to reach for their garden hoses. The hot and dry conditions require a little extra care for newly planted trees, ensuring their health and vitality.

Kevin Sayers, Urban and Community Forestry Program Manager at the Michigan DNR, emphasizes the significance of watering trees during this period. “Your newly planted trees are likely craving hydration,” Sayers advises. “Until regular precipitation returns, it is crucial to provide at least 10 to 20 gallons of water per week for any trees planted within the past year. This simple act will be greatly appreciated by your trees.”

Newly planted trees are particularly vulnerable as their roots are still establishing. However, even established trees can weaken and become more susceptible to diseases, insect damage, or winter breakage in dry weather.

Drought stress in deciduous trees, which shed their leaves in fall, is evident through the curling or drooping of leaves. Leaves may also exhibit browning at the margins, fall prematurely, or display early fall colors. Evergreen trees may experience yellowing of needles, followed by a shift to red or brown.

Proper watering techniques are essential for tree care. When watering, it is advised to prioritize newly planted or high-value trees. Newly established trees should receive water weekly, while established trees can be watered every two to three weeks. The most effective method is a slow and deep soak under the tree’s dripline, ensuring the soil is saturated to a depth of at least 10 to 12 inches. Generally, watering once a week is sufficient. It is important to avoid overwatering, so refrain from adding more water if the soil beneath the tree is already moist.

In addition to watering, mulching plays a crucial role in retaining soil moisture and conserving water. Applying 3 to 4 inches of organic mulch under the tree canopy, making sure not to touch the base of the trunk, helps create an ideal environment. Remember to shape the mulch pile like a doughnut, rather than a volcano.

Here are some helpful tips for watering trees:

  • Sprinkler: Place an empty container or rain gauge nearby to measure approximately 1 inch of irrigation.
  • Hand watering via hose: Allow the water to run slowly until the ground is saturated (10 to 12 inches deep) and moist near the base of small trees or at various points under the dripline of large trees.
  • 5-gallon bucket: Most newly planted trees require 5 to 10 gallons of water per inch of trunk diameter (at knee height) each week.
  • Soaker or trickle hoses: Ensure the soil under the dripline is saturated to a depth of at least 10 to 12 inches.
  • Avoid watering during the middle of the day, as water applied at the hottest or windiest time tends to evaporate quickly.
  • Mist sprinklers are ineffective for trees, with as much as 70 percent of the water being lost to evaporation into the air.
  • Refrain from using fertilizer, as fertilizer salts can harm the roots when soil moisture is limited.

Planting trees during summer can be a stressful endeavor due to high temperatures and the increased demand for water. Therefore, if you have not yet planted, it may be advisable to wait until fall.

When the conditions are right for planting, the DNR encourages Michigan residents to participate in the MI Trees challenge, aiming to plant 50 million trees by 2030. By pinning their newly planted trees on an interactive map, individuals can contribute to the future of conservation in the state. Join the movement and plant it forward! For further details, please visit (case sensitive).