Guerilla guide to nurturing new trees in Los Angeles

Act 1: You've got trees!

Back in 2009 or so, some happy combination of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhool Council, the Koreatown Youth and Community Center, Million Trees LA, and/or TreePeople magically arranged for holes to be cut and trees to be planted in the big concrete sidewalks on the north and west side of Wilshire Crest Elementary School, across the street from my house. This was great -- we can use all the green leafy shade we can get!

But, as it turned out, nobody was watering the trees, so they all started dying a few months later in the summer sun.

Act 2: How do you do this watering thing?

I decided to take things in my own hands. I tried a few things: A recent Oregon newspaper article suggests 15 gallons / week per inch of thickness, which jibes with what I found (I think the saplings started out about an inch think).

"Watering Guidelines for Trees at suggests weekly watering for young trees; one should water only if the soil is dry, and one should water enough to get the soil wet all the way down where the roots are (two feet or more).

Act 3: happy trees?

So my final recipe is: for the first two or so years until it's well established, a sapling in the hot LA sun needs a moat around it, filled with 15-20 gallons of water once a week. If a hose won't reach, use a kiddy wagon and a 15-20 gallon bucket/tub to schlep the water there from the nearest faucet.

Sounds easy, but for some reason it took me a year to figure out. I'm sure that a TreePeople training session would have saved me a lot of time.