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Consistent watering essential for new trees this fall

  • 10/17/2023 11:50:00 AM
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Fall is usually a good time to plant trees with mild temperatures and adequate ground moisture.  With drought conditions across Iowa this fall, watering newly planted trees on a regular schedule through the 2024 growing season is essential for a strong start and healthy life.

Shade trees can reduce heating and cooling costs, improve the air we breathe, add beauty and color to backyards, provide shelter from the wind and sun, and make our communities a better place to live.

A properly planted and maintained tree will grow faster and live longer than one that is incorrectly planted.

“Properly planted trees will have a better opportunity for a long, healthy life,” said Iowa DNR district forester Mark Vitosh. “Improperly planted trees can become stressed more easily or may look otherwise healthy, but then suddenly die in the first 10 to 20 years after planting.”

Follow these simple tips to properly plant and maintain a healthy tree:

  • Select a species that matches your site’s growing conditions (i.e. soil type, soil drainage, available growing space, full sun or shade, etc.).
  • Always call Iowa One Call-811 before you start digging to locate any underground utilities.
  • Remove top soil from the original root ball until you can see the first lateral root. This first main root should be just below soil grade when planting.
  • Measure the distance just above the first lateral root to the bottom of the root ball; that is the depth that you should dig the planting hole. Proper planting depth is key to long-term tree survival. If the hole is dug too deep the tree can settle over time which can cause long-term health issues.
  • Once the tree is planted, slowly water the planting hole (focus water in the location of the root ball) to settle the soil. As the tree grows, water the expanding root system further away from the initial root ball.

In the first year or two after planting, timely watering and mulching can be critical for success.  Once a tree is well established,  structural pruning can help maintain a quality tree into the future. 

Find more tips and a video on how to properly plant a tree and proper tree care after planting on the DNR webpage at