Caring for Young Trees

Caring For Young Trees

The first five years are critical for the long-term health of a tree. Learn about caring for your young trees.

Canopy's Palo Alto Young Street Tree Care Tree Brochure.

Note: While Canopy recommends proper young tree pruning, please do not prune Palo Alto street trees, as the City ordinance does not permit residents to prune street trees. See below for guidelines to prune young trees on your property.

Watering Young Trees

Is your tree thirsty? Conserve water and preserve trees by following these “smart watering” guidelines.

Young trees require regular watering for good health and disease prevention. Deep watering prevents surface roots from forming. Check soil moisture, once a week, 4-6 inches deep. Soil should be moist but not wet.

Conserve water and preserve trees. Increase watering for trees during drought, while conserving water in other areas of your home and landscape.

Watch for signs of drought stress. Are leaves wilting, yellowing, curling or browning at the edges? Use mulch to help conserve moisture. Cover the soil with a 3–4 inches layer of mulch extending 1–2 feet from the tree.

Lawn irrigation does not provide adequate irrigation for trees. Lawn irrigation or light sprinkling for just 5–10 minutes waters only a few inches of soil and encourages surface roots.

Watering techniques:

When: During the summer, water once a week. Weekly watering costs less than $1/mo. During the winter, water once a  month.
How Much: Use 10–15 gallons per young tree or inch of trunk diameter.
Where: Saturate the soil to a depth of 12 inches below the soil surface out to the tree's dripline (the outer-most branches and leaves).
1. Watering basin: Build a soil berm around the tree to hold 10–15 gallons; fill each week (a medium pressure hose fills a 10 gallon basin in 5 minutes).
2. Soaker hoses: Install soaker hoses around the tree in coils out to the dripline; cover with mulch and run on low for 1–3 hours.
3. Garden hose: Place a hose end at the base of the tree; turn water onto low pressure for 30 minutes or trickle for 2–3 hours.
4. Five gallon buckets (use 2 or 3): Drill 3–5 holes in the bottom of the buckets and place them around the tree. Fill the buckets with water and leave to drain.

Weeding Young Trees

Plants and weeds compete with the tree for water and nutrients. Keep the base of the tree free of other living plants such as weeds or grass.

Protecting Young Trees

  • Protect trees from lawn equipment like weed whackers and mowers. Cuts in the bark interrupt transport of water and nutrients and expose the tree to infection by pests and diseases.
  • Protect young trees from chemicals. Pesticides and herbicides can burn or damage a young tree’s roots and leaves.
  • Placing mulch around trees protects young roots from drying out and suppresses weeds.
  • Do NOT prune or fertilize young trees for at least two years.

Learn more about different tree species and their growing requirements in Canopy's Tree Library.

Pruning Young Trees