Tree Watering 101

Watering your tree properly is one of the most important steps for long-term tree health. Trees are pretty tough and resilient, so if you water it once a week during the summer, you should be all set.

Should I water my tree right away?

When you first plant your tree, it’s helpful to “water it in.” By giving your newly planted tree a good soaking, you can settle the soil and remove any large air pockets. After that, you can put your hose and buckets away until spring.

When should I water my trees?

Your trees need watering during the hottest months, from May through September, for the first 3 years after the tree is planted. The first 2 summers are especially important for weekly watering. During the third summer, transitioning to every other week (when it doesn’t rain at least 1 inch) is recommended.

Wait – I don’t need to water my trees all year?

Nope, just in the summer. In fall and winter, trees go dormant (aka “asleep”). While they are dormant they use less energy. Most trees in Tennessee also lose their leaves during this time. Without leaves and without much heat from the sun, trees lose less water to evaporation and transpiration.

How often should I water my trees?

For the first year, you should water once a week, unless you’ve gotten at least an inch of rainfall that week. The second year after it’s planted, you can start watering only every other week, and the third year you can dial back to monthly watering. By the fourth year, your tree will have developed sufficient roots to get enough water on its own. You can check how much rain you’ve received here. (Make sure that the drop down box below the map is changed to ‘Last 7 days’.)

If you’ve received your tree from the Cumberland River Compact, you’ll receive a short weekly email that will either recommend tree-watering that week, or suggest skipping it because we received enough rain. Email us at if you’d like to be added to this list.

How much water should I give my trees?

You should give each tree 10 gallons of water, the slower the better. Leave a hose trickling at the base of the tree for 5-10 minutes, or drill some holes in 2 five-gallon buckets, fill the buckets, and let them drain next to your tree.

I have a sprinkler system. Is that enough?

No, sprinklers will not provide enough water for your newly planted trees.

How much watering is too much?

Learn more from our friends and partners at the Nashville Tree Conservation Corps in this post about overwatering.

Speaking of water… did you know that trees improve local water quality?

Trees improve water quality in several ways: they reduce flooding, recharge groundwater, prevent erosion, and filter out pollutants.

Trees slow down the flow of rainwater, and help more of it infiltrate the ground instead of becoming runoff. When this happens, you have less surface flooding and more water replenishing the aquifer. 

All this is great for humans of course, but it also helps rivers and streams have more stable water levels. Tree roots also help hold soil in place, preventing erosion along stream banks. Sediment is a major water pollutant across the US, but it’s not the only pollutant trees filter out; they also absorb excess nutrients from fertilizers, which can cause algae blooms and fish kills.

These are some of the many reasons why the Cumberland River Compact and Metro Water Services are the leads of the Root Nashville campaign — trees are critical for water quality!

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