Water is the single most important factor for tree survival. Mother Nature does not always provide enough water for trees to survive their first few years after planting. If you experience drought, even mild drought, your tree could die from lack of water. The truth is that many trees die from too little or too much water during the first few months after planting. Trees are likely to get too little water in well-drained soil and too much in soil that is poorly drained. For best success we recommend you water your newly planted trees for the first two years.
The amount of water needed is dependent on your soil, temperatures, and rainfall.
Newly planted trees planted in the spring should be watered regularly (2-4x/week) for the first year or two especially if rains are infrequent. Water thoroughly but do not overwater. The soil should dry down slightly between watering. Irrigation from lawn sprinklers is generally not sufficient until the plants are well established. This is the most critical step in the establishment of your new trees!
If you plant in the fall, water at planting, and then 1x/week until they lose their leaves and go dormant at the onset of winter. Resume watering after leaf out in the spring.
Make sure water is applied to the original root ball. Adjust water according to soil type, temperature, rainfall, and other irrigation.
Our own Iain and Bob Wallace talk about watering:
Normally the East receives rainfall from frontal rains during the spring and fall, and rainstorms and tropical storms in the summer. However, rainfall is not sufficient for the needs of your trees, especially in sandy soils. There are often dry periods during the fall and spring when it will not rain for weeks, which can hurt tree growth, flowering, or fruit production.
Despite seasonal rains, watering is very important, especially during the year after planting. If possible, drip irrigation systems are the most water-efficient and should be installed if possible to ensure survival and healthy growth. These are inexpensive, easy to install, and available at most home-improvement or landscape supply stores. They are insurance for your planting.
However, most food plots do not have access to wells for irrigation. In this case, it is very important to haul water to the trees, such as with a tank mounted on your ATV or truck. Tanks are inexpensive and available at most farm supply stores in varying sizes.
A 5-gallon bucket with a 1/16” hole drilled just above the bottom can be filled from the tank, and will also catch the rain.
In addition, we highly recommend the use of Grow Tubes, which will recycle the transpiration moisture given off of the leaves at night.