three watering technologies

Since we just entered Stage 2 Drought restrictions, I wanted to share my favorite three watering technologies to keep your young and mature trees watered during droughts here in Austin, Texas.

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The Treegator watering bag has been a popular solution for homeowners, city employees, and gardeners looking to easily water their trees. Its primary benefit is its slow-release mechanism, ensuring deep root watering and preventing runoff. Once filled, the bag will always deliver about 15 gallons of water to the root ball of your new tree. The bag’s design wraps around the base of a tree, minimizing evaporation and water runoff, which can be especially beneficial during watering restrictions or in times of drought. It is also extremely easy to set up and use. The bag can also protect the lower stem from deer rubs and sun scald. If you put one of these on your new tree, and fill it 2-3 times a week, the tree is very likely to survive and establish.

On the downside, the Treegator bag can be somewhat ugly, detracting from the natural aesthetics of a garden or landscape. They also can become clogged, which require you to remove the bag and spray the inside to open up the drip holes. The bag also puts a lot of weight on the stem of the tree. If the tree is not established or properly staked, the bag can drag it horizontally and cause a lean. The bag is also only really beneficial for young or newly planted trees, and does not provide any advantage to mature trees.

We used to provide these with all of our new plantings, but have now switched to the next item.

The TreeDiaper watering bag are newer to the scene. These bags have a ton of potential if used right and we will be providing these with all of our new plantings. It is essentially a bladder filled with hydrogel, with a thin porous membrane on the bottom. When the soil dries out, reverse osmosis draws moisture through the membrane, out of the hydrogel and into the soil. When the soil is inundated with water, the hydrogel can actually draw moisture out of the soil. You soak the bag overnight in water, lay it on the root ball of your tree, and then cover it in 3-4 inches of mulch. The bag slowly releases water, promoting deeper root growth and ensuring trees receive a consistent water supply, reducing the frequency of manual watering. The TreeDiaper also absorbs and retains rainwater, capitalizing on natural resources and further lessening the need for supplemental watering. Additionally, its insulation properties help regulate soil temperature, potentially boosting root health. Even in the brutal Texas sun, I have only had to charge my TreeDiapers once a month. In the winter months, you could likely go 3-4 months and they would still be providing moisture. This summer, many people have left for a few weeks of vacation and come home to find their newly planted trees dead or dying. If they had used a charged TreeDiaper, the tree likely would have survived.

There are some negatives. Removing and reapplying the mulch layer when you need to charge it is a bit of a chore. It also does not provide all of the volume of water that new trees need, and you should still water with a hose twice a week. Weeds will also try and penetrate the bag to get the water, so you will need to be diligent about preventing weed growth next to the tree diaper.

For established and mature trees, the Water Right soaker hose is the way to go. The Water Right soaker hose is leaps and bounds better than any other soaker hose I have ever used. It has a eco-friendly design, made from polyurethane that promises safe and uncontaminated water delivery. The design provides efficient water distribution, seeping out along its length as well as spraying tiny streams of water up to a foot away, ensuring deep watering and drastically reducing water waste and runoff. This soaker hose is the best way to deeply water a mature tree. Its extremely durable and resists UV rays, kinks, and cracks. The biggest benefit is that a 25 foot soaker hose can be used to water your new tree, as well as your more mature trees. While more expensive than the other methods, this technology should be useful throughout the trees entire life.

The biggest negative by far is the price. It can also be a little unwieldy to use and move between trees. There are warnings on the website that calcium can buildup in the seep holes and clog the hose, but I have yet to experience this.

I hope this is helpful and that these technologies help you keep your trees alive through this drought and future droughts to come.