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New York City Street Tree Map
Explore and Care For NYC’s Urban Forest

Watering

People in safety vests pour water out of plastic buckets onto the base of a young tree

For the first few years, watering is the most important thing you can do for your tree. It may also be the hardest task to accomplish. Getting water from the source to the tree can be a challenge. Also, because of pollution and compression due to foot traffic, city soil has difficulty absorbing water. This means that you need to cultivate or loosen the soil so that the water can reach the tree’s roots. There are a number of different tools and techniques available to help your watering efforts.

For some watering inspiration, check out the instructional video on tree watering provided by Casey Trees in Washington, DC.

Guidelines

  • Water each young tree 15-20 gallons once a week between May and October (that’s 3-4 large buckets).
  • Using a hand cultivator, carefully loosen the top 2-3 inches of soil to alleviate compaction and help water and air reach the roots.
  • Do not dig any deeper or use large tools. These will damage the tree roots.
  • Water slowly so the water penetrates the soil and does not run off of the surface.
  • Water at the soil level, not through the leaves of shrubs and groundcovers.
  • If it rains 1 inch or more in a week’s time period, you do not need to water the tree.

Suggestions For Street Tree Watering

  • Poke small holes at the bottom of a large trash can. Fill it with 15-20 gallons of water and leave the trash can next to the tree overnight.
  • Ask building maintenance staff to water trees while they are hosing off sidewalks.
  • Ask street vendors and merchants to dump water from their containers (coolers with melted ice or flower buckets) into nearby tree pits at the end of the day.
  • Make sure water with detergent or bleach is dumped into the gutter, not the tree pit.

Tools You Can Use

  • 5-gallon Bucket
  • Hand Cultivator
  • Hose
  • Treegator & Treegator Jr.
  • Hydrant Adaptor
  • Trash-Can