Trees are a beautiful addition to your landscape. With proper care and attention, they can thrive and add value to your property for years to come.
A good place to start is with simple maintenance tasks. These fall gardening tips are essential for the health and beauty of your trees.
Pruning, the removal of branches and twigs, helps ensure that trees and shrubs grow healthy and strong. It also encourages flowers, fruits and nuts. It can also help prevent damage to structures and reduce the risk of falling debris. It is best to prune during the late dormant season when a plant’s energy is focused on new growth.
During this time, it is easier to distinguish live from dead wood and many pests are not active. The most important pruning tasks include removing any dead, diseased or broken branches. Deadwood can rob the tree of needed energy and can become an entry point for insects. It is also a good idea to remove weak or crooked limbs that can fall and cause injury or property damage. Branches that have grown too close together can crowd out healthy branches, block sunlight and limit air circulation which can lead to disease and insect problems.
Ornamental and fruit trees should be pruned to promote airflow and minimize shading, and to shape the plants for desired appearances. Many gardeners make training cuts to develop a desired form or to fill in an area caused by damage or poor growth. It is important to understand a plant’s natural growth habit before making training cuts. It is also a good idea to check with a gardening resource for the proper time of year to prune specific plants in your area.
Broad-leaved evergreens such as holly, rhododendron and flowering plum can be pruned in late winter or early spring before they begin their growing season. They should be trimmed to remove dead or dying material and keep the branches at a safe distance from structures, sidewalks and driveways. Many conifers, including spruce and yew, should be pruned during the spring when they are growing vigorously. They should be lightly trimmed to control their height, and to remove dead or damaged twigs and needles. It is also a good idea to thin pines and spruce by removing one-third to one-half of the newly growing tips, called candles, at their base.
Water is the single most important factor in the success of a newly planted tree. Newly planted trees need water frequently to establish root systems, especially during hot and dry weather. The amount of water required depends on the type of soil, its texture and temperature. It is also influenced by the air temperature, precipitation and wind conditions.
Watering is most effective when it soaks in rather than runs off. Using a garden hose to water your tree is one method that works well but you have to be very careful not to overwater. Watering too often can drown the roots or cause them to rot. During hot and dry weather, newly planted trees need to be watered as often as 3 times per week. Watering can be done in the morning or evening as these are the best times to minimize evaporation.
When you do water your tree, make sure it is focused on the roots and not the trunk or leaves. Watering the roots is more effective than watering the leaves because the roots are where all the nutrients are absorbed. It is also important to avoid the trunk area because this will promote rot. Depending on the type of tree you have, you will want to water up to 10 feet past the drip line, the area shaded by the canopy.
A good way to check for soil moisture is to stick your finger about 4 inches into the ground. If it is moist to the touch, there is no need to water your plant. You can also use a screwdriver to test the soil. If the screwdriver passes easily through the soil and doesn’t stop, your plant needs to be watered. Newly planted trees should be watered until the top foot of soil is moist, while established trees should be watered to the point where water can’t be absorbed. It is important to check the soil moisture as it can change very rapidly due to different conditions. If you are unsure whether your tree is in need of water, look for signs such as drooping or limp leaves as these can be an indication that the plant is dehydrated.
Trees need the right nutrients to thrive and reach their full mature potential. Often, ideal environmental conditions for healthy growth are not available, so fertilization is one way to provide the necessary vitamins and minerals.
A well-fed plant is usually more resilient to stressors such as drought, disease and pests. Therefore, regularly feeding your trees is an important part of your regular maintenance routine.
There are many different types of fertilizers available, both organic and inorganic. Organic fertilizers, which contain decomposed or naturally occurring plant and animal materials, are a good choice because they are less harmful to the environment and to the tree itself. Inorganic fertilizers, on the other hand, are made from man-made materials that are more likely to damage the soil and the surrounding ecosystem.
Whether you choose to use liquid or granular fertilizer, the proper application process is crucial to ensure success. For example, it is important to avoid over-fertilizing a plant because excessive amounts of nutrients can lead to water-stress and root rot. Additionally, when applying granular fertilizer, it is important to spread the product evenly across the entire area of the planting site.
When to Fertilize
Generally, you can determine if a tree requires additional nutrients by observing how much new foliage it produces in the spring. If a mature tree has more than 6 inches of new growth, it is unlikely that the tree will require additional fertilizer. However, if the tree has less than 2 inches of new growth or shows other signs of distress, such as leaf drop other than in the fall, then fertilization is recommended.
It is also a good idea to periodically examine your trees for any abnormalities such as holes in the bark, dead or dying branches, or early changes in color. This will allow you to take action before a problem develops into a more severe issue, such as root rot or insect infestation.
If you have a bare or mulched landscape, the easiest and most cost-effective method to fertilize a large tree is to broadcast a granular fertilizer over the surface of the soil. This should be done around the base of the tree and out to the drip line (the ends of the branches). Be sure to sweep away any excess fertilizer that may have landed on driveways, sidewalks or other impervious surfaces and do not fertilize within 10 to 15 feet of a waterway.
Trees are a significant investment in your property. They increase its value, beautify it, improve the quality of the air you breathe, and can even lower your energy bills. Maintaining the health and safety of your trees through regular inspections is vital to ensuring they are providing you with all of their benefits.
During an inspection, an ISA Certified Arborist will evaluate the condition of your trees and shrubs by examining their growth, soil, roots, structure, canopy, pests, diseases, and trunk. Ideally, tree and shrub inspections are scheduled on a seasonal basis to catch problems before they become severe.
The winter season is the best time to schedule a tree inspection. During this time, the disease and insect pests are dormant, making it easier for an arborist to spot any issues that may be causing stress to the plant.
When a tree is stressed, it becomes more susceptible to damage and failure. This is often the result of a variety of conditions including drought, improper planting, soil compaction, root disturbance (from construction or trenching), and other factors. An ISA Certified Arborist can evaluate the symptoms and identify the cause of the stress to help the plant recover.
Storm damage is another common reason for a tree inspection. Heavy winds can break branches and exert forces on the buttress roots of a tree that can lead to structural failure. An arborist can evaluate the damage and determine if pruning or installing supplemental support cables is necessary to mitigate the risk of the tree falling.
An inspection of a newly planted tree can be extremely beneficial. Not only can an ISA Certified Arborist verify that the tree has been planted properly, but they can also ensure it is getting enough water to grow and thrive. This is especially important if the new planting will be growing in a hard to reach location or if it will be near an existing structure.
A regularly scheduled tree inspection can save you money and resources in the long run. It is much cheaper to prevent a problem than it is to repair or replace one.