Issue 1, April 22, 2021

Taking Care of Trees: Five Tips for Root to Top Success

We have all heard the phrase, "Money doesn't grow on trees." However, trees add both aesthetic and economic value to a landscape. So, if we think of our home as an investment, we should consider our trees as investments as well. As with a financial investment, you will need we choose the right tree and provide regular maintenance. Neglected trees often decline. By the time we notice their decline, it is often too late to correct the cause. This article will provide five tree care tips to keep your trees healthy from the roots up.

Care Tip 1- Planting

Proper planting is the essential step in setting it up for success. Research has proven that having the correct size and depth of the hole for the root system's growth is equal to the tree's chance of survival. The hole needs to be 2 to 3 times as wide as the root ball's width. The hole should be deep enough so that the trunk flare is visible after planting. Be sure to remove any twine, wire, or burlap, as the tree roots do not break through this and can cause roots to girdle. Once in the ground, backfill with the soil, tamp lightly, water thoroughly, and then apply mulch (see Care Tip 2- Mulching).

Care Tip 2- Mulching

Mulching is the placement of woodchips, bark, pine needles, or other organic material over the soil's surface. Mulch can help to keep the soil temperature warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. It also helps to retain soil moisture and inhibits weed growth that competes for nutrients from the tree. Apply roughly 2-3 inches of mulch around the tree to the drip line or beyond. Avoid piling mulch against the tree's bark. New mulch can be added yearly as the old mulch decomposes.

Care Tip 3- Watering

The frequency and need for water changes as the plant grows. Newly planted trees require more frequent watering as they establish. Once established, watering frequency isn't as rigorous, but the depth of watering is an important consideration. Deep watering over the entire root zone is preferred. Allowing the water to moisten the top 6-9 inches of soil is best. Light watering will tend to promote shallow roots that will be more prone to stress during drought or high temperatures.

Care Tip 4- Fertilizing

Yellowing leaves, smaller than normal leaf size, poor growth, or early fall color are all symptoms of a potential nutrient deficiency. A soil test is the best way to determine nutrient availability. The soil test will allow you to assess what fertility treatment is needed. Often, we think that when we apply our lawn fertilizer that this is sufficient for trees. Unfortunately, unless we have a soil test, it could be under the need for that tree. Fertilizing rates will change as your tree grows, but an optimal rate is between 2-4lbs of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of soil. Applying that much fertilizer at once is not recommended as it can cause injury to the tree or surrounding turf. Instead, the application should be applied between early spring and fall, when tree roots are actively growing and able to take up the fertilizer.

Care Tip 5- Pruning

All trees will inevitably need pruning to improve health and form and to reduce potential hazards to bystanders. Pruning younger trees is easier just due to their smaller size. Consider hiring an arborist to prune larger trees. They have specialized equipment to help safely complete this task. Start by pruning out any dead, diseased, broken, or crossing branches. Then remove branches as necessary to provide better clearance, whether for mowing or even just walking.  

The care that you provide to your trees will impact their long-term and ultimately your property value. As earth day approaches on April 22, 2021, make that financial investment in planting a new tree into your home landscape. You now have the tools to provide the proper care to the tree and can reap the benefits of an attractive and healthy tree.


Maria Turner

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