It's so important to water street trees in their first few years to help them establish. Sufficient water means the difference between life and death for these trees, as they're trying to grow in a very harsh urban environment.
Watering a tree means that it forms roots that point straight down to soak up the water. This is much better than trees spreading roots sideways in search of water, which can interfere with road surfaces, pipes, cables and even building foundations. Some street trees are fitted with watering tubes when they're planted, which help guide the water straight down to the roots.
So how much water do trees need?
Street trees that are 7-10 years' old need at least 50 litres of water every week to thrive - even more if it's a dry summer. That's 5 standard watering cans full. Or a wheelie bin full of water if you think about it all in one go.
How much does it cost?
Lots if you're a council - councils have to bring their own water supply to an area, which they usually do in a tank on a truck. Not only is this an expensive way to transport water, it also adds to traffic and pollution. They also have to pay people to do the watering, buy and maintain the necessary equipment, and so on.
You don't even need a watering can to water your neighbourhood street trees - they'll gratefully drink water from an empty plastic bottle, bucket, or any other container. Reusing a plastic drinks bottle means it is no longer single-use plastic, so you'll be doing another good thing for the environment as you water your tree.
Using a hose
Hoses can be quite controversial, and are often subject to restrictions when the mains water supply is scarce, but when you consider that a growing tree needs 50 litres a week, then it's a very practical way of watering your street tree. It also means you won't waste any water through spilling, as you can control the flow really accurately.
Trees don't mind sharing your bathwater!
Did you know: You can use greywater from your washing up, baths and showers to water trees - trees aren't that fussy about where the water has come from. You can get very technical and fit a diverter valve to your drainpipe to collect bath and shower water, and waste water from a dishwasher too, but an easy way to get started is to keep the water from your washing up bowl, and use that to water your tree - no special equipment necessary!
Our street tree watering tips:
- It’s best to water in the early morning or evening when it’s a bit cooler, so the tree can absorb as much of the water as possible before it evaporates in the sunshine.
- Young trees need 50 litres of water each week during the summer – that’s 5 standard watering cans, or 25 empty 2l drinks bottles! Get your neighbours to help, and you'll have it done in no time.
- If the tree has a watering pipe, pour half of the water down the pipe and the other half on ground around the tree trunk. If the tree has a watering bag, simply fill that.
- Get into a regular habit – we remind people on our social media channels to water trees on #WateringWednesday, but you could give your nearby tree a daily watering can full Monday to Friday instead, or do it all at the weekend – as long as it gets a good long drink.
- If you are doing the watering all in one go, try to do it gradually so that the tree has time to soak it up slowly.