Tree Planting and Care 101: Watering

Trees need 15-20 gallons of water per week, especially during the hot summer months! Here are some tips to help you provide libation for our leafy friends during the summer season.

Summer Watering Tips

  • Be sure to remove weeds from your tree pits! Weeds not only compete with the tree for precious water, but they can also block rain water from getting into the soil.
  • Don't let that leaking shower, bathtub, or sink water go to waste! Capture it into a container or bucket and use it for watering trees.
  • Capture spontaneous drips of water from air conditioners and dehumidifiers! These droplets may annoy you, but trees can use them. Capture this water into a container for watering small trees.
  • Trees helping trees! Spread fallen leaves or wood chips (free from your local tree removal company) around the base of the tree to conserve water and to keep the soil cool and wet.

Let us know about your great work by officially adopting a street tree through the MillionTreesNYC Stewardship Corps

For the first few years, watering is the most important thing you can do for your tree. It may also be the most difficult task to accomplish. Transporting water from the source to the tree is a challenge. Furthermore, because pollution and compression due to foot traffic, urban soil has difficulty absorbing water. This means that you need to cultivate or loosen the soil so that the water can reach the tree’s roots. There are a number of different tools and techniques available to aid your watering efforts.


  • Water each young tree 15-20 gallons once a week between May and October (that’s 3-4 large buckets).
  • Using a hand cultivator, carefully loosen the top 2-3 inches of soil to alleviate compaction and help water and air reach the roots.
  • Do not dig any deeper or use large tools. These will damage the tree roots.
  • Water slowly so the water penetrates the soil and does not run off of the surface.
  • Water at the soil level, not through the leaves of shrubs and groundcovers.
  • If it rains 1 inch or more in a week’s time period, you do not need to water.

Suggestions for Street Tree Watering
  • Poke small holes at the bottom of a large trash can. Fill it with 15-20 gallons of water and leave the trash can next to the tree overnight.
  • Ask building maintenance staff to water trees while they are hosing off sidewalks.
  • Ask street vendors and merchants to dump water from their containers (coolers with melted ice or flower buckets) into nearby tree pits at the end of the day.
  • Make sure water with detergent or bleach is dumped into the gutter, not the tree pit.