10 Simple Tips For Watering Your Oak Tree (How-To Guide)

Old oak tree at the river on a sunny summer day

We all love our beautiful oak trees, and we want to always make sure they are in good health. With an ample amount of sun, water, and nutrients – oak trees flourish. The truth is – sometimes we don’t even have to intervene, as an oak tree is self-sufficient and can take care of itself.

Young oak trees under five years old should be watered. Your oak tree may need water if its branches are brittle, easy to break, and leaves prematurely falling. When watering your oak tree, deeply soak the surrounding soil to about 1-2 feet downwards to ensure the water reaches the roots.

But not all oak trees need water, and today, we have some simple tips that you should know before you go and water your oak trees – and to be honest, these tips can even save your oak tree’s life! I know there is a lot of pressure here.

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Does My Oak Tree Need To Be Watered?

Before you pick up the hose and water your oak tree – this is the question you need answered. Does your oak tree actually need to be watered? Right off the bat – the answer is – most likely not. But there are three questions you need to consider before you start to water:

● How old is your oak tree?

 Is your oak tree in good health?

● Are you in a drought?

These three questions are all you need in determining if your healthy oak tree needs water – and they all require different solutions. But let’s talk about the tips, and we will get back to this later on.

10 Simple Tips for Watering Your Oak Tree

So – let’s get to it! If you think your oak tree is in need of water, it’s essential to water it the right way. Under-watering or overwatering can do harm to your oak tree, so it’s best to keep balance – and we’re going to tell you how.

Add 1-2 Feet Of Water Around the Base Of The Oak Tree

First things first, if you have determined your oak tree is in need of water, a good rule of thumb is to add water in a 1-2 feet diameter around the tree.

Creating a bit of distance rather than just hitting the trunk with the hose and adding a little water is going to be way more beneficial to the oak tree and will allow it to actually get the water it needs.

We often think we are watering our oak trees and other plants enough by simply just spraying some water on them.

You have to imagine how big the oak tree’s roots are, and then with that mindset, try to visualize the amount of water it needs.

Lonely oak tree by the lake

Deeply Water The Oak Tree And Fully Soak The Soil

As simple as it sounds, really saturated the water in the soil here.

We use the term deep here because you have to add water that will be deep enough for the oak tree’s roots. Again, with the same 1-2 feet in mind, although it may be hard to tell from the surface, the goal is to fully soak the soil so that it remains wet from the surface to 2 feet below.

Just wetting the surface of the oak tree isn’t going to do anything because all that does is wet the soil. An oak tree’s roots are underground, which means you have to add enough water so that the water can surpass layers of soil.

To do this, it’s best to leave a hose or sprinkler system or, if you are using drip irrigation, on anywhere from a half-hour to an hour to soak up the soil around the tree. But there is a tip with sprinklers that you have to consider as well.

Don’t Put The Sprinkler Right On The Trunk Of An Oak Tree

The whole goal of using a sprinkler system is to wet the soil around and under the tree – not by soaking up the trunk!

Having the water from a sprinkler constantly hitting the trunk for a delayed period of time can cause harm to the trunk, especially if the sprinkler has high water pressure. The oak tree’s trunk can start to peel, or the water itself at high pressures can harm the bark and will wound the tree.

A wounded tree means it needs extra care because it can obtain diseases and insects will be attracted to the wounded spots, and the oak tree can become infected.

Don’t Overwater The Oak Tree

What we just spoke about definitely consists of a lot of water, but it all leads back to if your oak tree even needs water in the first place – which we will talk more about later. However, if you have come to the determination that it does – do not overwater your oak tree.

Some signs of overwatering of an oak tree are yellow leaves on the lower branches of the oak tree or within the canopy or brittle leaves. Another way to check is to simply dig into the soil. If you dig about 8 inches down, the soil should be cool and damp – not wet or not puddling.

Plants and trees can only suck in so much water at a given time. If the oak tree is overwatered, the roots won’t be able to take in air because they will be drowning from the water.

Overwatering can actually kill an oak tree or lead it on a downward spiral of health.

Don’t Water Oak Trees In The Winter

In the winter, oak trees are dormant, and oak trees do not need water because they do not need as much as they would in the warmer months.

In the winter, leave your oak tree alone and let it take in any natural precipitation that occurs. With colder temperatures, there is less evaporation and more water on the ground, and sometimes, it’s even frozen water.

If you’re wondering just how the heck oak trees make it in the cold, check out our piece on how oak trees survive winter here.

Mature Oak Trees Shouldn’t Be Watered

The biggest takeaway here is that if you have matured oak trees – they don’t need to be watered unless there are significant signs that it isn’t getting water.

Mature oak trees have been doing their thing, so to speak, for a long time, and they know how to get nutrients, and they know how to be self-sufficient. At around five years old, your oak tree will be in a great spot to take care of itself.

Oak trees aren’t mature until about 20-40 years, so you may still water your young oak once or twice a month until then.

Mature oak trees get their water from the soil and are considered such easy-to-grow plants because when they become mature, they really don’t need any intervention from us.

Fun Fact: Oak trees produce acorns around 20 years old!

Colorful autumn forest landscape at sunset, trees near river and sky, bright sunlight and shadows oak tree

If Your Oak Tree Is Young, It Needs Water

On the contrary, if your oak tree is young – it is going to need a lot of water!

There is a whole watering plan for young oak trees that we will talk about later in this article!

The rule of thumb is to start off watering your young, newly planted oak tree at least 3 times a week, to 1 time a week, to every other week, to every month, to every few months – and beyond. Young oak trees are going through a lot of initial shock since they are being ripped from their environments and planted into new ones.

During that process, they learn how to function and maintain a steady routine.

The biggest factor here is that a young oak tree or newly planted oak tree hasn’t developed deep roots yet, and the roots may not be able to reach the water that is in the ground.

Because of this, your young oak trees may not be getting any water at first, so it’s essential to provide ample amounts of water at a time.

While oak trees need a good deal of water, they also need sunlight. You can read more about how much sunlight your oak tree needs here.

If There’s A Drought, You Can Water During Winter

Even more on the contrary – if there is a drought, you can water during the winter months – but only if the temperature is right.

If the temperature is above 40 degrees and there hasn’t been much precipitation, then depending on the age of the tree, your oak tree may need some watering. If there are warm winter days, it can actually awaken the roots, and the problem that occurs then is that there is no water during a drought available for the roots to drink.

If the ground is frozen, you should not be watering your oak tree. Water will not be able to seep through the ground, and it will do nothing for your oak trees. Plus, if the ground is frozen, the roots remain dormant.

Beautiful outdoor landscape with lonely oak tree in snow winter season

Adding water can actually cause harm to your oak tree if the ground is frozen because it can warm up the frozen ground, the water will not seep through enough for the roots to take a drink and can actually evoke the roots to come out of dormancy, and if they do, there won’t be any water supply for them.

Keep Fallen Leaves Under Oak Tree

A nice little tip to helping your oak trees get enough water, especially in the Autumn months when they are going to start to go dormant, is to keep the fallen leaves on the ground where they fell!

These oak trees’ leaves will act as a natural mulch and will create a layer that locks in moisture and will eventually decompose and provide a ton of nutrients to your trees.

All parts of the tree are beneficial – so letting it do its own thing, and keeping its leaves on the ground, will only benefit it in the long run.

Refrain From Planting Under An Oak Tree

One last tip – although it doesn’t directly apply to watering, it is something you should know is that you should never plant under your oak tree.

Your oak tree will be in a constant war with any plants near the base of the oak tree for water and air, and because the plant’s roots will be closer to the surface, the plants will be seeping up the water more quickly leaving the oak tree without water.

So, while those flowers might look beautiful, plant them somewhere else!

Does Your Oak Tree Need Water?

Now that you know some tips for watering – before you do, it’s important to consider these things below. So, let’s revisit those three questions from early on.

Young Oak Trees Need Water

If your oak tree is brand new to this world, and you just planted the oak tree – you should water the tree three times a week for the first three weeks it’s planted. Aiming for a total of about 15-20 gallons in the weeks’ time – will help keep your tree hydrated.

After about three weeks, you can water your oak tree again. But it will only need to be watered once a week. Aim for about 10 gallons of water per week until the oak tree has been planted for two months.

Once your oak tree has been planted for two months, for the next four months, water your oak tree every other week – anywhere from 10-15 gallons of water.

Continue like this, watering the oak tree every other week for about a year, but if it rains a lot one week – the oak tree does not need to be watered, as the rain took the watering spot.

Young oak leaves in the morning sun

After the first year – your oak tree can be watered once a month; however, if it rains, it will not need to be watered.

Going up to five years of age, continue to water your oak tree once a month, only if needed.

Mature, Healthy Oak Trees Don’t Need water

Checking to make sure your oak tree is in good health is key in determining if it needs water or not.

First, inspect the soil around your tree – if it is really dry, there is a good chance it needs water. If the soil is moist, it doesn’t need water!

After the soil test, give your tree an overall scan from the top of the canopy to the base of the trunk. If the trunk looks in good condition, and the leaves are green and full of life – you won’t need to water it.

If you think that your oak tree may not be healthy, check out our guide on what may be wrong with your oak tree.

All Oak Trees Benefit From Water During A Drought

Being in a drought changes things. It’s like your plants, and oak trees are in a state of emergency, and the normal water supply that they have from the ground is just not cutting it!

If you are in a drought, definitely water your oak tree. You can do this by putting a hose at the base of your tree and allowing it to stay there for 1-2 days, but at a very low pressure – almost dripping.

If you are in a drought and it’s during the winter months, you can water your oak tree once a month, depending on the climate. But – do this with caution because the ground cannot be frozen if you decide to water your trees.

How To Tell If Your Oak Tree Needs Water

Besides these three questions, there are visual signs to tell if your oak tree needs water because although those questions help to decide when a healthy oak tree needs water, there sometimes are expectations.

Below is a list of something to look out for to see if your oak tree needs water:

● Dry soil underground.

● If your oak tree has wilted leaves.

● If the leaves of the oak tree are turning brown at the tips.

● Undersized leaves.

● Spotty canopies, where leaves are missing in chunks.

● Scorched leaves.

● Yellow Leaves.

If you come across any of these signs, the first thing you should do is water your oak tree. If things do not get better, your oak tree may be unhealthy.

If you start to notice a quick decline in your oak tree’s health and appearance, it may be lacking in nutrients, and water may not be the issue.

Fertilizing Your Oak Tree

Sometimes, if your oak tree isn’t looking too good – it may have nothing to do with water at all. It may be lacking in some nutrients, and if that’s the case, you may need to fertilize it.

Fertilizing oak trees is relatively easy, but fertilizing needs to be done correctly to ensure the health of your tree. Fertilizing oak trees usually consists of a 12-4-8 ratio of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium.

To fertilize your oak tree, always make sure to lay the fertilizer at least a foot away from the trunk so that the tree can get the nutrients.

If the fertilizer is close to the trunk, just like if water is too close to the trunk, it will not do much for the tree and can actually damage the trunk and bark itself.

Whether it’s by laying the fertilizer around the oak tree trunk or by taking a more proactive approach and digging quarter size holes that go about 18 inches down around the tree, and then filling those holes with fertilizer, if your oak tree is lacking in nutrients and is looking unhealthy, the fertilizer will help it.

You can read our full guide on how to fertilize your oak tree here.

That’s A Wrap!

Oak trees don’t always need as much care as you may think. They are relatively easy-to-grow trees, and once mature, they are self-sufficient and can flourish on their own accord.

However, sometimes our oak trees need water, and especially at a young age, they need a lot of care and water.

If you sense your oak tree needs water, definitely lookout for some signs and take these tips to help your oak tree. If you realize water isn’t the issue, then we advise calling a professional to see if your tree has a disease or is unhealthy.

References:

Cubera, E., Moreno, G., Solla, A., & Madeira, M. (2012). Root system of Quercus suber L. seedlings in response to herbaceous competition and different watering and fertilisation regimes. Agroforestry systems85(2), 205-214

Vander Mijnsbrugge, K., Turcsán, A., Maes, J., Duchêne, N., Meeus, S., Steppe, K., & Steenackers, M. (2016). Repeated summer drought and re-watering during the first growing year of oak (Quercus petraea) delay autumn senescence and bud burst in the following spring. Frontiers in plant science, 7, 419.

Frezghi, H., Abay, N., & Yohannes, T. (2021). Effect of Mulching and/or Watering on Soil Moisture for Growth and Survival of the Transplanted Tree Seedlings in Dry Period. American Journal of Plant Sciences12(02), 221.

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