Trees can add beauty to your home landscape, but they also require careful maintenance and care to thrive. Failure to maintain trees can lead to insect infestation, disease, or even death.
Proper planting is one of the most important aspects of caring for a young plant. These tips can help you give your plants the best possible start.
Trees are vital to our city, providing shade and habitat for wildlife. They are also an investment that requires proper care in order to thrive. One of the most important steps in this process is watering properly, especially during hot summer days. Taking the time to ensure your trees are properly hydrated will help them grow and resist disease, pests, and other issues that can be more prevalent in unhealthy trees.
The most common mistake when watering a tree is not watering enough, but overwatering is just as harmful. It’s crucial to water your trees in the morning or evening, as this will minimize evaporation and give the roots a chance to absorb the moisture they need. If you’re not sure whether your trees need water, the best way to check is by feeling the soil. The goal is to have moist soil, not soggy, and you can usually tell if your tree needs more water by digging out a small hole in the ground.
Young plants need more frequent watering than mature ones. This is because it takes a while for their roots to establish themselves, meaning they can’t take in and store as much water on their own.
During their first year, it’s essential to water new plants and trees at least once a week, more often if it’s summer or in a dry region. You can also try using a soaker hose or placing a bucket with holes in it around the base of your tree to avoid overwatering and to let the water slowly seep into the ground. Once your plant is established, you can cut back on the frequency of watering.
Mulch may not be as exciting as a present from Tree Elves, but it’s an important part of taking care of trees. When properly applied, it reduces soil compaction around the roots, adds organic nutrients and helps control weed growth. It also moderates the soil temperature, and it can make a huge difference in watering needs for young and mature trees.
A thin layer of mulch will stop the sun from zapping the soil of its moisture. A good mulch should be about 2-3 inches deep and spread evenly.
Be sure to keep the mulch a few inches away from the trunk, because this will help prevent fungal and bacterial diseases. These pathogens thrive in wet conditions and can quickly damage or kill a young tree.
Ideally, you’ll use an organic material like shredded leaves, wood chips or compost. Inorganic mulches, such as rock or shredded rubber, don’t provide the same benefits and can even harm the tree by blocking its roots.
The type of material you choose will depend on what’s available in your area. For example, if you live in Kansas City, a layer of pine needles is an excellent choice because it will decompose quickly and add nutrients to the soil. Other options include hay, straw and crop remnants (like cocoa bean hulls or cottonseed). Avoid using sawdust, because this can acidify the soil and damage roots.
Trees need to be properly fed and fertilized for proper growth and health. In the natural setting trees are surrounded by an organic layer of decomposing leaves and twigs that provide them with the nutrients necessary for growth and metabolic function. In the urban landscape this layer of organic matter is often stripped away from the soil when homes and lawns are built. Tree fertilization helps to supply the three macronutrients (nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium) that are critical for tree growth.
Proper fertilization can help to minimize damage and pest infestations. Pests and disease can be particularly difficult to combat in the blooming period when trees are at their most susceptible.
A good rule of thumb for knowing whether or not a tree needs to be fertilized is to observe the amount of new twig growth in the spring. If the tree produces between 2 inches and 6 inches of new growth then fertilization may not be needed. However, if the twig growth is sluggish and the foliage of deciduous trees starts to become abnormally small, pale or yellowish then a lack of nutrients could be to blame.
There are a couple of types of fertilizers that can be used on trees: organic and inorganic. Organic fertilizers are derived from animal and plant based sources. These are the most beneficial to the environment and the tree itself as they release their nutrients slowly over time. Inorganic fertilizers are derived from chemicals and can be absorbed much quicker than the organic variety.
If you choose to use a fertilizer then it is important to apply it in a way that is targeted to the root zone of the tree. It is also important to not overfeed a tree with too much fertilizer as this can actually have negative consequences. When possible, apply the fertilizer to a mulched or bare area of the ground rather than directly in the grass surrounding the tree.
Protect Your Roots
Tree roots are essential to a tree’s survival. The underground network of roots absorbs water, minerals and nutrients to provide trees with the strength and nourishment they need to survive. If the root system is harmed or compromised, the whole tree suffers. It’s vital to protect tree roots during construction and landscaping projects in order to ensure that the trees health, stability and beauty are preserved.
Unlike the crown or trunk, which have predetermined growth patterns, tree roots grow opportunistically and expand when the environment provides them with moisture, oxygen and warmth. Because of this, they are particularly susceptible to injury. They may be cut or torn by lawnmowers or chainsaws, sliced or ripped by string trimmers, or buried in soil that is too dense or compacted.
When exposed, roots are at risk of fungal infections and pest infestations, poor water uptake, disease and death. This is why it’s crucial to maintain proper tree care practices and consult a certified arborist before performing any type of pruning or removal.
Avoid storing building materials near the base of a tree and don’t cover up the roots with additional soil or mulch. This restricts root movement and causes nutrient deficiencies. It is also important to choose the right soil for your planting site, as different species prefer different types of soil.
When trees are stressed by improper planting, watering, or soil conditions, they can become more vulnerable to pest infestations. Insects can devour leaves, bore into trunks or suck sap, and fungi like powdery mildew, root rot, and canker can weaken the tree and reduce its ability to photosynthesize. If left unchecked, these problems can lead to tree death.
Newly planted trees are especially susceptible to pests and diseases as they start out. It’s important to keep an eye on your newly planted trees and report any pest infestations as soon as possible. This will help ensure your tree is not infested at a critical stage and will have a better chance of surviving and thriving.
Pest problems can also be a result of land use practices, and so it is important to monitor your property for signs of invasive pests. Observing and reporting changes such as a lack of leaves, holes in the bark, or orange fungus can be helpful in troubleshooting these issues. When a pest problem is identified, documenting the symptoms and consulting with an entomologist or county Cooperative Extension agent can be helpful.
While periodic outbreaks of destructive insect pests are part of natural fluctuations in ecosystems, homeowners can help to control these pest populations by using Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies. IPM includes cultural practices, such as proper pruning and mulching, to limit the stress that can make trees more susceptible to pests; biological controls, such as encouraging beneficial insects and birds that can help control pest populations; and chemical control, when necessary, using judicious and limited applications of products with low toxicity. This helps to control pest populations and protect the overall health of the landscape.