Trees should be watered slowly where the feeder roots are growing

Backyard Q&A

August 04, 2002|By Dennis Bishop | Dennis Bishop,Special to the Sun

Q. Three years ago, we planted two red oaks in our front yard. They appear to be healthy, but we would like to water them during dry spells. What's the most efficient way to do that?

A. With newly planted trees, I recommend setting the hose end at the base of the tree and allowing water to trickle for an hour or two. This is because all of the roots of a newly planted tree are within a few feet of the trunk.

However, as trees establish themselves in the landscape, they develop fine feeder roots at the periphery of the root system. Because these roots take up most of the water for a tree, you want to place your water where they are growing. So if the tree is established, I would lay a soaker hose in a circle around the perimeter of the tree canopy. And if there were enough hose to do more than one circle, I would continue wrapping the hose in concentric circles around the perimeter of the canopy. Each circle would be several feet further away from the tree trunk. I would then turn the water on and slowly water the tree for several hours.

Q. English ivy has taken over a small area of our yard and is now growing up several trees. What is the best way to remove it from the trees?

A. It is best to remove English ivy as soon as it begins to climb up a tree. If it is left unchecked, the ivy will not only grow higher in the tree, but will also cling more tenaciously to the bark. This makes it more difficult to remove, and as you pull off the ivy, you may damage the tree bark.

I would cut the vines at the base of the tree and pull them off from bottom to top. If done in this way, you can generally pull off long pieces of vine at the same time. If you cut the vines and allow them to die before you remove them, the vine will be brittle and will break off in small pieces as you pull. This will make your job more difficult.

It would also help if you remove all the ivy from an area around the base of the tree. This will help keep it from climbing back up the tree.


1. If you are gardening in wooded areas, be sure to avoid contact with poison ivy. Poison ivy is a trailing and climbing vine whose leaves are always in groups of three. It is sometimes confused with Virginia creeper, which has leaves in groups of five.

2. When vegetable plants have stopped producing, they should be removed from the garden. They can be a host for insects that feed on other valuable plants.

Dennis Bishop is an urban horticulture educator for the Baltimore office of the Maryland Cooperative Extension Services. If you have a gardening or pest problem, you can call the Home and Garden Information Center hot line (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.) at 800-342-2507. You can also e-mail questions, order publications and diagnose plant problems by visiting the Web site,

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