Tree care tips

Tree watering graphic

With the continued drought, it is even more important to be sure both young and mature trees get the amount and quality of watering they need.

When parkway trees aren’t properly watered, especially during heat waves, “Summer Branch Drop” causes limbs to drop from otherwise healthy trees. 

Use these tips to keep your parkway trees strong, healthy and a beautiful part of Lakewood’s urban forest.

Watering tips

Where to water:

Never water your tree at the base of its trunk. The best way is to saturate the soil evenly within the “dripline” (the outer edges of the tree’s branches) to disperse water down toward the key roots that deliver water to the tree.

How to water:

  • Use a soaker hose laid at the dripline of the tree and set a timer. The objective is to water slowly, dispersing the flow of water to get the water deep down to the tree’s roots – ideally, 12” down.

  • Let the water flow long enough to soak in. Watering for short periods only encourages shallow rooting which can lead to more drought damage.

  • Make sure the top soil layer is absorbing the water. If the water beads and runs off, then break the surface soil up and apply a simple solution of soapy water to the surface to get the soil wet again and ready to absorb water. You can make your own solution by filling a gallon bucket of water and then adding one tablespoon of dish soap.

How much water:

It is best to water to a depth of 12” below the soil surface, so how much water your tree should receive depends upon tree size. A general rule of thumb is to use approximately 10 gallons of water per inch of trunk diameter for each watering.

How often to water:

For newly planted and small trees, weekly watering is ideal. Young trees planted less than a year ago need their watering basins (the berm of soil up to six inches high around the root ball) filled at least once a week. If the basin has been flattened or removed, the tree is likely not going to receive enough water. Lawn irrigation spray is not enough for most young trees, even if they are considered drought tolerant once established. 

For medium and large trees, once every three weeks in several areas around the tree will help reduce the risk of limb failure. Remember to water slowly and evenly within the “dripline” to allow the water to reach deep into the soil to the roots.

Pruning, mulching and fertilizing tips

  • Place organic mulch around trees to reduce moisture loss.

  • Do not fertilize a tree that is under drought stress. Salts in fertilizer may burn roots when there is not sufficient water. Fertilizers may also stimulate top growth resulting in too much leaf area on the plant for the root system to maintain during periods of limited soil moisture.

  • Properly pruned and trimmed trees improve structure and limb stability. If your parkway tree needs trimming, please call the city’s Customer Service Team at 562-866-9771 extension 2140 to request a trim.

  • Many tree species are harmed by herbicides used in the lawn. Trees already stressed by drought can be harmed by a heavy application of herbicide in the root zone.

For more resources for caring for trees, check with your local nursery or visit California Releaf's website.