National Donut Day: Do tree donuts work?

Happy National Donut Day!

As neighbors have been planting new green in their yards throughout the Spring, you might have noticed these tree rings or tree donuts. These tools can be helpful while a young tree gets established after being planted. They can help prevent underwatering or even overwatering, because the bag serves as an exact measurement of how much water the tree is getting. Tree donuts are also very helpful for saving water by ensuring all the water is served directly to the tree’s roots. 

Although these donuts are helpful, they’re only meant to be used for a period of 2-3 months at a time and, of course, aren’t much help during the Winter when temperatures are below freezing. These donuts also aren’t going to tell us exactly how much water a tree is going to need. Generally, a young tree should receive around 20 gallons of water a week while it’s getting established in the first 1-2 years after being planted. However, this varies depending on the tree species. Always research a tree’s needs before putting a care plan in action and remember to consider other factors too, such as seasonal temperatures, drought conditions, and even soil composition. Each of these factors will influence how much water a tree will need for success. 

A good test to see if a tree needs water is to poke a long screwdriver into the soil. If it’s hard to push in and there’s no soil sticking to the shaft, the soil is dry and the tree should be watered. If the screwdriver is relatively to push into the soil and it has particles sticking to it when pulled out, that could be a good indicator that the soil is saturated. You could also dig a narrow trench about 2-4” deep to feel the soil yourself. The soil should be moist, but not wet and certainly not muddy. Even when using tools like tree donuts for watering, it’s a good idea to check the soil saturation yourself to ensure the tree is getting what it needs, especially as temperatures change with the season. Adjustments will need to be made to ensure the tree isn’t getting too much or too little.

As great as donuts are, they’re not the only option for watering trees. If possible, using a soaker hose or routing drip lines to the tree is a great option for keeping them hydrated. You can also make DIY watering devices by making your own watering bag or by drilling holes into a 5-gallon bucket and setting it next to the tree (be mindful of water evaporation - it’s best to put a lid on the bucket). Tree watering systems like this are fantastic and go a long way in helping trees thrive, but the ultimate responsibility is on each of us to monitor soil saturation levels and water accordingly.

For more tree care tips, visit our care tips page by clicking here.