Winter tree watering; how much, how often?

Asked December 3, 2016, 8:42 PM EST

Hello Experts!
How often, (weather permitting), and how much should I water my trees during the winter months? They are all recently planted (two years ago) and are all about 4 inch diameter trunks, give or take. From what I read on-line I should give them 40 gallons of water every month (10 gallons per diameter inch). This seems like a lot of water on a once-a-month schedule. I've even read that this should be done twice a month. 80 gallons! We have Linden, Maple, Locust, Crab Apple, Pear, and of course, Pine. The soil is variable, but there are no clay "buckets" around the trees. Any advice, guidance, and help, greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Boulder County Colorado trees and shrubs

1 Response

Thanks for your question.

It sounds like you've done your research and have taken great care of your trees. You are correct in that your trees still need water during the winter, but they do not need the same amount you would give them in the spring or summer.

  1. Trees generally take one year to establish for each inch of trunk diameter. For example, a two inch diameter (caliper) tree takes a minimum of two years to establish under normal conditions.
  2. For winter watering, small established shrubs or trees (less than 3 feet tall) should receive 5 gallons monthly. Large established shrubs or trees (more than 6 feet) require 18 gallons on a monthly basis. Decrease amounts to account for precipitation.
  3. Water within the dripline of the shrub or tree and around the base.
  4. Water only when air temperatures are above 40 degrees F and there is no ice at the base of the tree.
  5. Apply water at mid-day so it will have time to soak in before possible freezing at night.
  6. Monitor weather conditions and water during extended dry periods without snow cover—one to two times per month.
For 4" trees you will want to water for 20 minutes if you are using Deep Root Fork or Needle that distributes 2 gallons per minute. If you are using a Soft Spray Wand or sprinkler that distributes 2 gallons per minute you will need to water for 10 minutes.

All of this information came from the El Paso Extension office and was taken from their publication "Winter Watering in Colorado." I've included the link in case you want to read it.

I hope this helps you understand the practice of winter watering your trees.

Thank you,