Leaf Scorch - European Hornbeam Tree

About a year ago, I got two young European Hornbeam trees in small pots. I planted them in my yard right around August or September, I think. I put one in the back yard and one in the front. They both lost their leaves early upon planting, but sprouted new leaves just fine in the spring.

About a month or two ago, perhaps the hottest part of summer, the tree in the front started experiencing what I now find, via Google, appears to be leaf scorch. The one in the back yard, however, looks fine.

The websites discussing leaf scorch are not entirely clear. They say it can be caused by both overwatering and underwatering.

The differences I can spot between the front and back yard conditions are as follows:

  1. The one in the back yard has received water more frequently pursuant to the instructions given to me by the city tree people. The one in the front is harder to water, so I have been less diligent about that one.

  2. The one in the front yard gets more sun. The one in the back yard has trees close by, providing more shade for the back yard tree throughout the day.

  3. The one in the front yard is on a slight slope.

This leads me to believe the leaf scorch on the front tree is probably due to underwatering rather than overwatering.

The instructions given to me by the city on watering were to saturate the soil twice per week. No other water should be provided. When I asked what they meant by “saturate” they led me to believe I should basically flood the soil around the tree.

Most of the time, I put the hose near the tree and crank it as high as possible without washing away soil. The watering process takes about 10 minutes per tree. Less frequently, I put the hose near the tree and set it at a trickle for several hours.

The soil is pretty hard. I have not applied much mulch or fertilizer at all since the tress were planted initially. After doing some internet reading, I stuck a shovel in the ground and gouged the soil nearby the tree. The soil was pretty wet maybe 8 inches deep, which led me to believe the soil was probably wet at least a foot down.

I guess I should water the front more regularly and more slowly. I should also put down some bark or mulch? Do I just lay the bark or mulch on top of the soil, or do I shave some soil off the top and replace it with bark or mulch? Is there a certain fertilizer I should use? How often? I read that I should fertilize in late fall.

Does this sound right? Anything else? Thanks!