New growth vs Old growth
Tender new growth uses more water than mature,
hardened off leaves. A ballpark recommendation is to provide 15-20
gallons of water per inch of trunk diameter weekly during the
growing season for the first two years after planting.
Proper Watering of Plants
When you water newly planted trees and shrubs, you must be careful
to wet the area around the stems and trunks of the plants well to
make sure the original rootball is watered along with the native
soil surrounding it. Western Pennsylvania’s clay soil tends to hold
moisture more than loamy or sandy soils. Most container-grown plants
are grown in artificial soil that consists of peat, bark,
vermiculite and perlite in varying quantities. It is quicker to dry
out than the surrounding clay soil and often requires more frequent
watering. However, the clay soil surrounding the original rootball
can hold too much water, leading the roots to rot.
Slight wilting can be a signal that it is time to water, but you do
not want to stress young trees very much immediately after planting.
The best way to know if it is time to water is to feel the soil
under the mulch near the base of the plants. Are the top couple of
inches moist or dry? If it is moist, do not water. If it is dry, go
ahead and water.
Since you have nothing to lose, go ahead and dig out one of the
dying plants and examine its root system (already dead plants are
not as useful for this). A healthy root system is firm, white and
vigorous. One suffering from root rot will be limp, brown and dead.
Pieces of it will break off easily. If the entire shrub is dead, it
is unlikely to recover. Plants just beginning to exhibit symptoms
may recover when you quit overwatering.
Damage from Rodents
Another possibility to check
for is rodent damage. Sometimes mice, voles and even chipmunks will
feed on the bark of trees and shrubs. Your well-watered, mulched
landscape beds created an easy place for them to dig tunnels during
dry weather. I have seen very large, established shrubs killed
outright by rodent activity. Check the bark around the base of the
plants for rodent feeding while you are examining the roots.
How to water new
How to water new trees