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the advantage of NOT watering a tree

 
paul wheaton
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Many trees have taproots, or, at least, deep roots.  However, if you water the tree in the summer, a lot of times the tap root disappears and the tree's defenses against drought are gone.  The tree then becomes dependent on getting watered. 

 
tel jetson
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you referring to established trees, or young transplants?
 
gary gregory
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So..., infrequent deep watering to establish a sapling?  Lots of mulch?      Don't most young trees in the forest have the benefit of shade and protection from the mature trees while we are often trying to start trees in a less protected space?    How do we mimic the forest?
 
Jeremy Bunag
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I've extended Paul's "Cheap and Lazy" lawncare to how I take care of my trees, somewhat inadvertantly (forgetful or busy doing other things).  Of the 10's of trees I've planted from Arbor Day (3 or 4 sets now) many have died  , but just about as many have limped along, and now seem to be doing quite well!  I don't think I water any of them with any regularity, and I try to mulch them as I can...

But you know what?  I want trees that will survive the way I can tend to them, so they've fended for themselves and I'm feeling assured that that ones that survive will continue to survive, possibly even thrive if they find good stuff as they grow.  They're used to me, and what I can provide, and they like it enough to grow...so who am I to say they need something I'm not providing
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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There are probably circumstances where a tree needs irrigation to become established.

What if, while planting the tree, you were to bore down a good fraction of the distance to the water table with a very narrow auger, and install a vertical pipe.  Maybe a stalk of bamboo from which the septa have been burned away with red-hot hot sand would work. Maybe if water is so scarce, the soil is light enough to drive something in directly, a-la a sandpoint well. I bet something could also be worked out with a compressed air hose threaded through to the bottom of the pipe plus a sturdy vacuum cleaner coupled to the top.

As the tree is getting established, any irrigation it needs can go directly into the pipe. No wasting it on shallow-rooted neighbors. No encouraging shallow tree roots. No adding water faster than the soil can absorb it. The roots would likely find the pipe very early on, due to surface water following the pipe down in the wet season, plus any effect of loosened soil. It would be possible to install a series of these at different depths, and transition between them based on a schedule of root depth.

Jeremy Bunag wrote:
I've extended Paul's "Cheap and Lazy" lawncare to how I take care of my trees, somewhat inadvertantly (forgetful or busy doing other things). 


I did a similar thing with tomatoes, and they succeeded beyond my ability to manage them. 
 
paul wheaton
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I would think that this would be more true of more established trees. 

It does seem that the smart thing to do is not water them at all ever.

And, the big caveat is:  if you do water them for several years, and then stop watering them, they will die.

 
Jeremy Bunag
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paul wheaton wrote:
And, the big caveat is:  if you do water them for several years, and then stop watering them, they will die.


Exactly!  I now have trees trained for my lazy bones...
 
              
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Location: West Iowa
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I only have to watch trees for the first year, and usually don't have time to water them even then.  I usually throw alot of water polymers in the planting hole.  There are mixed feelings how well they work or not though. 
 
Matt Ferrall
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I recently discovered that my entire land is one giant hugelculture.An excavator removing stumps found several huge old growth trees buried 6ft under and having lived in the area his entire life said that in the 50s people were digging around just to find them and it was cost effective.Add to that a water table at 15ft and you have some distinct advantages.(of course now I see that I may one day see my place buried as well).So given those advantages and my agreement with not watering stuff to find out what will work without outside support,I still support watering trees the first year.Its not natural(or fair)to take a tree that has had its root system damaged in harvest,stored in cold storage all winter,delivered in  the spring and expect it to fair well on its own the first year.I prefer to wean my trees off  water.Natives planted in the fall need no help.
 
Matt Ferrall
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after thinking about it today,I usually see the plant wilting which is a flag for me to know the tree is really hurting.If its still doing this by the third year,then I let struggle rather then water.An incentive I have is that I have to pump my water by hand so it makes a good balance.Just like people,there are times in a trees life when a little help might be all they need to get started but if they keep begging,ya gotsta cut em off or else you will be serving them for the rest of your life.Lets call it tough love for trees!
 
paul wheaton
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There was money in digging up trees that were buried six feet deep?

 
Matt Ferrall
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Yes,trees in anarobic conditions dont decay and cedar(esp old growth)has anti fungal resins as well.Logging operations here have included getting logs from bottoms of lakes ect.This could be its own thread but not by much so ill return to the subject at hand.
I avoid store bought food because it isnt nutrient dense enough for me.I can only eat so much and much breeding has been done to increase size/water content in fruit(they charge you by the pound still,suckers).Non irrigated trees are more nutrient dence.Ive also read that many medicinals produce stronger medicine when grown on poor soils or unirrigated so I assume the same holds true for food.
 
Brenda Groth
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i have also read that it is better to NOT put fertilizers in the soil when you plant trees, just to loose the soil fairly deeply and refill with the topsoil ..that way the trees send out stronger roots into the surrounding area searching for food too..if you put too much fertilizer in the hole they won't go out in search they'll just circle in the hole..

better to put any fertilizers on as a top dressing out around the dripline
 
tel jetson
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Brenda Groth wrote:
i have also read that it is better to NOT put fertilizers in the soil when you plant trees, just to loose the soil fairly deeply and refill with the topsoil ..that way the trees send out stronger roots into the surrounding area searching for food too..if you put too much fertilizer in the hole they won't go out in search they'll just circle in the hole..

better to put any fertilizers on as a top dressing out around the dripline


I'm with you up to a point, Brenda.  loosening soil under a tree tends to make it sink as the soil settles and then you may end up with soil against the trunk because it ends up lower than you intended.  I try not to disturb the bottom of the hole at all and only dig as deeply as it takes to fit the roots.  using a square shovel or spade makes that easier.

adding topsoil to the bottom of the hole can cause problems, too.  when roots encounter an abrupt change in soil composition, like they would at the barrier of subsoil and relatively rich topsoil you've put in your hole, they tend to divert and circle just like you're trying to avoid with the fertilizer.  I try to put the dirt back in the same order it came out.  subsoil in the bottom, topsoil on top.

and before anybody calls me on it, I'm paraphrasing Edible Forest Gardens.
 
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