Is an Irrigation System Good for Your Trees?

June 9, 2021 · 1 minute read
Is an Irrigation System Good for Your Trees?

The days are getting hotter and drier. You want a beautiful landscape. You know that Richmond summers usually bring hot, dry weather that can be stressful for your entire landscape. It seems like adding an irrigation system would benefit all of the plants in your yard.

Most irrigation systems that you see in our area are set up to benefit grass. It’s easy to assume that if you are helping grass with water, that your trees and shrubs are benefitting, too. Unfortunately, it can be a little more complicated than that.

Trees do not typically have deep root systems. They have expansive, shallow root systems that extend beyond the canopy (drip line). If irrigation systems are installed without consideration for these roots, the damage can be significant.

Instead of helping your trees by giving them water, installing an irrigation system without consideration of tree roots can cut a significant portion of your tree’s roots, which means the top of the tree will get less water. It is not uncommon to see significant dieback in trees within a few years after irrigation is installed if it isn’t done with consideration for the trees.

There are other concerns with irrigation systems. Roots thrive in moist conditions. Trunks and leaves are better off being dry when they are not being rained on. Sprinkler systems can carry and promote disease if they are consistently hitting trunks, branches and leaves. Irrigation specifically done for woody plants is usually a slow, deep drip done less frequently.

If you choose to put in an irrigation system near established trees, consider checking with an arborist before installation occurs. An arborist can give guidance on where the trenching can happen to minimize impact to root systems. If trenching is going to occur close to trees, an air tool can be used instead of a trencher to minimize root damage.