How to Water Trees During a Drought

This is a practical follow-up to my scree last week on trees dying because no one is watering them. Thing is, we should be watering them, even if we’re really worried about the drought, even if we’re doing everything we can to save water. We need to invest in trees because they save more water than they use. They are our allies in this drought, and they are dying.

Now, I thought I was going to have to write up all this tree-watering stuff from scratch, but our friend Richard Hayden, the head gardener of the amazing Nature Gardens at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, sent me a note with links to these videos produced by the Forest Service. I like these videos because they’re concise, and the info is solid.

Thank you, Richard!
Thank you, Forest Service!

The video at the top of the post is on watering mature trees, the one at the bottom about watering young trees–the two techniques are a bit different.

Also, you can find more learning resources at Tree People.

Leave a comment


  1. Ooh, thanks, Kelly! I’ve been watering a bit too close to the base of the tree apparently–Ooops.

    I posted a pic of my sad maple with it’s curling, dry leaves on a FB gardener’s group and someone mentioned that it’s a good idea to once in a while take a hose and flush the surface of the soil around the tree with a lot of water to get rid of salts that may build up if you only use a soaker hose (which I do). Have you head about this?

  2. I’ve not heard about that–sorry. It doesn’t sound like a bad idea, though. After all, it’s very odd to go so long without significant rainfall at all– who knows what’s building up? It couldn’t hurt and maybe will help.

  3. Thank you Kelly for posting this. It is important information. I have re posted and received comments that the video is informative and easy to understand. One friend said that her tree in her lawn was suffering but now she will water the tree more. Hope more people keep their trees alive.

  4. When our local council plants trees (Melbourne, Australia, so subject to some pretty grueling heatwaves and periods of drought), they’ll lay about a metre’s length of slotted agricultural pipe in the hole, in a J-formation, so the entry to the pipe is above ground, but the pipe curves down and under where the root ball gets planted. This allows for delivery of water to just below the young tree’s roots, which helps encourage the roots to grow down. It’s kind of like claypot irrigation for trees.

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