Irrigation is so essential to newly planted big trees. It doesn’t take much water, but it does take steady, consistent water to make a new tree successful in its new location. Trees that only get occasional, ‘When I remember to..”, attention will regularly show signs of stress that may take seasons for them to grow out of.
Irrigation can come in a lot of forms that are not highly effective for new trees. Sometimes its bed sprinklers or over spray from lawn sprinklers. Maybe its the green ‘Gator Bag’ style of slow release irrigation that must be filled manually. Then there’s the least effective variety, which is remembering to lay the hose out, turn it on to a trickle, and hopefully remembering to turn it off before you are watering the neighbor’s trees as well with all of the runoff! Inevitably, once this kind of oversight happens, many folks convince themselves they have watered enough for the next couple of weeks. Newly planted large trees begin to suffer on multiple fronts from this ‘Feast or Famine’ style of irrigation.
Then there is the next level of unintended neglect, which I refer to as the, ” I had to turn on my windshield wipers today, so no need to water, right?”, syndrome. Many people feel that no matter how little the precipitation, no matter how hot the weather is or has been, and no matter how long it has been since you turned that hose on and watered everything including the storm drain for four hours, that if the sky sneezes a modicum of moisture from above the watering regime is out for the day, or week maybe…
All kidding aside, most big trees shed even large amounts of moisture out and away from their root ball areas. Think of the first natural place you might run to during an unexpected rain storm. Unless you really wanted to get soaked, most of us go for the canopy of a tree. On a smaller scale, this is the same reason rain storms don’t count for freshly planted trees.
The best way to water newly planted trees is with a dedicated drip irrigation system to each tree, controlled by a timer. With these components in play and a little checking in to see that everything is functioning properly, you will have a happy, healthy tree that adjusts quickly to its new surroundings. Eventually you can dial the timer and irrigation back, but if you want your trees to be the best they can be, giving them some consistent watering is the best insurance. Once any tree starts showing symptoms of stress, it generally means they are ahead of the symptoms in the negative effects they are experiencing.
Like so many other aspects of life, the methodical and controlled approach is what will be most effective. When it comes to irrigating your expensive landscaping, it should go with out saying that timer controlled drip irrigation is worth the initial investment.
The elusive Northwest Summer season may have arrived this week, as we all know it should, immediately on the 5th of July. Now that some warmer weather may be here to stay, we should consider the effect it has on our landscapes, especially any newly planted trees.
Most all of our customers follow our irrigation and watering instructions to a tee, but there are always a few folks who decide they are going to remember to water their trees by hand, and decide they do not need any automated timers or systems in place. Now, I’m not sure how many folks go this route with no ill effects, but I do know that most every person who calls in experiencing some Summer difficulties with their trees has gone the manual irrigation route, and readily admits to missing a few intervals of watering. Sometimes these well meaning folks make comments to the effect of how there has been a lot of rain this season and it didn’t seem necessary.
Unfortunately, the rains we receive in this part of the country are so quickly absorbed and drained away by our soils, that even when the weather seems wet the newly planted trees are just getting by at best. Many times, people will notice that the root ball surface under the tree is dry, as the canopy of the tree sheds the water out and away from the root ball. This is why automated, consistent drip irrigation is so necessary to the successful transplanting of a tree. When the water is getting to the root ball, the problems associated with tree transplanting are eliminated.
Most of the time, drip irrigation delivery systems like soaker hoses and perforated plastic tubing can be set for 15 to 20 minutes, every other day when the temperatures are below 70 degrees. Once the daily high temps start sneaking up to 80 degrees, many times it is wise to set your timer to deliver the same amount once a day.
Now then, these suggestions are just that, suggestions. The only way to be certain that your trees are getting ‘enough/not too much’ water is to dig a hole 6 inches deep next to the root ball of the planted tree. Try and do this moisture test around 4 hrs after the drip system last operated. When you take this soil and ‘snowball’ it with your fist, it should hold its shape and feel damp. If the soil is dripping water as you squeeze it, there is too much watering going on and you need to throttle back with the timer. If the soil is dusty and falls apart in your opened fist, you are going to need to turn up the water until it looks good and damp at a later test time.
It never hurts to keep an eye out for old and existing trees in your landscape as well. If we actually get hot, sustained temperatures some older trees can suffer as well. A little water can go a long way to keeping older trees happy, and eliminate some die back of foliage and branches. If people and the news stations are talking about the heat, make sure to water the older trees once a week for a few minutes. If you drizzle a swirl of liquid dish washing soap over the obvious root area of the large tree, you will see an immediate difference in how much water will be absorbed vs. shed down the slope. It’s a fun trick to see in action if you haven’t before.
Hopefully this is all useful advice regarding the watering of new and existing trees. Now if we could just figure out a neat way to keep handy all the layers of clothing necessary for our NW Summers…
Big Trees understands that construction schedules and moving times do not always coincide with the best time to transplant trees. Ideally trees are transplanted when they are dormant. This is the period after the leaves drop in fall and before the spring growth begins. However, not to worry if you missed the ideal transplant time because with 25 years of transplanting experience we have developed a method that allows for successful summer transplants.
We are able to transplant trees in the summer with additional steps and treatments. The aim of antitranspirant and antidesiccant treatment applications are to reduce the water loss, and stress associated with water loss, of trees during the transplant process.
Just what are antidesiccants and antitranspirants? The dictionary gives two different meanings for ‘desiccant’ and ‘transpire’. Desiccation means to ‘dry or dehydrate’, where transpiration means to ‘pass through pores or membranes.’ In the horticultural world an antidesiccant would be a substance used to stop dehydration in plants and an antitranspirant would be a substance that stops the loss of water from leaves. In the horticultural world both terms can be interchanged. For simplicity let’s just use antitranspirant from here on out.
Here is a brief introduction on tree biology which may help you understand how antitranspirants work. The evaporation of water from plants is called transpiration, and almost all transpiration occurs through leaf openings called stomata. Water is literally pulled to the tops of the trees by transpiration. Transpiration aids plants in mineral and water absorption, and it is necessary for the plant process of photosynthesis, which is critical for tree growth and ultimately the well being of the plant.
Plants control the size of the leaf openings (stomata) based on external environmental conditions and internal chemical triggers. Transpiration is at its highest when light is available, the temperature is high, the humidity is low, there is a slight breeze and adequate water is available. If water is unavailable during high periods of transpiration the leaves of the tree wilt because water is lost through leaf openings faster than it is being absorbed.
Big Trees applies antitranspirants as a root soak and as a foliar spray. The foliar spray is a clear liquid coating that forms a shield over the leaf surface. This shield works as a physical barrier that aids in the prevention of water loss from the stomata. The foliar spray can significantly reduce plant stress associated with water loss during the transplant period. The foliar spray also provides protection against insect damage, UV degradation and windburn.
The root soak is applied as a soil drench which can then be absorbed into the tree’s root system. It is best absorbed into the root system when the soil is already partially moist. Through transpiration the root soak is moved from the roots through the canopy of the tree. The root soak contains Abscisic acid (know as ABA). ABA works as a natural chemical trigger. As ABA is moved through the tissue of the tree it deactivates transpiration by triggering the leaf stomata to close. The plant reduces its transpiration naturally.
Both the root soak and the foliar spray work together to make summer transplant possible. They should be applied at least 24 hours prior to the dig. The effects of both applications can last up to three weeks. The root soak and the foliar spray come as concentrates which are diluted with water before they are used. They are easy to apply, they are environmentally friendly and completely safe, and best yet they produce excellent results.
Transplants from nearly 3,500 years ago include trees used for incense. In a scene at Deir el Bahri, men carry a myrrh tree to Egyptian ships in Punt, a land still not clearly identified. Hatshepsut sent a trading mission down the Red Sea to procure luxuries there in about 1470 B.C.
Don’t go dormant with your garden in the fall. Ideally it is the time to transplant your trees. Timing is one of the important considerations when you are planning a tree transplant. It is easier to transplant trees and shrubs when they are dormant. This is the period after the leaves turn in fall and before the spring growth begins. However, not to worry if you missed the ideal time because it is possible to transplant trees during the growing season with additional steps and treatments.
Everyone is aware the many benefits of trees, and there is recognizable value in retaining large trees in the landscape through transplanting. It’s the idea that if you already own a valuable asset, by all means keep it. The value on your home increases with a mature landscape, especially with specimen trees. Typically, the cost of replacing a tree rather than transplanting that particular tree, is anywhere from two to ten times the transplant cost.
The success of transplants depends on the tree species, the health of the tree prior to the transplant, the characteristics of the new planting site, the amount of post transplant care and of course the method of transplanting itself. The size of tree that can be relocated is limited only by ability and financial resources.
With twenty years of experience Big Trees, Inc. has developed careful transplanting techniques that lead to a 98% survivability rate of small to large specimen size trees. Transplanting trees is more skill and art rather than brute force. Experienced crews use specialized tools and careful techniques to ensure that each tree is dug properly. Root balls often appear shallow but this is because the majority of a tree’s root system responsible for supplying water and nutrients lies within the first few feet of soil.
Transplant aftercare is important when determining the success of a transplant. A transplanted tree has lost significant root mass and will require additional watering and fertilizer during the first and second growing season. Adding a two to four inch layer of organic mulch is also beneficial. Mulch reduces water loss, increases water absorption, lessens temperature fluctuations and adds nutrients to the soil. Just be sure to pull the mulch layer away at least six inches from the base of the trunk. When mulch is pilled against the trunk rot can occur.
If you have questions about transplanting please contact Big Trees, Inc. Our staff of knowledgeable horticulturalists can determine the likelihood of a successful transplant.