Trees, our gentle giants are easy to take for granted. It can be difficult to save trees once they are in distress. There are some things you can do that will help them get off to a good start and keep them healthy for future generations.
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Do Your Research
The first step to planting a tree that will last for many decades is choosing the right tree. Research the species you are interested in before doing anything else. Consider factors such as mature canopy height/and breadth, soil conditions and the best varieties for your U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zone.
Kathy Glassey from Monster Tree Service, director of renewable resources, says that planting the right tree in the right place for the right reasons will make it a healthier tree.
Lou Meyer, an arborist at Davey Tree Service, suggests that deciduous trees like maples, oaks, and evergreens be planted in areas with strong seasonal changes.
Meyer states that this gives deciduous trees the opportunity to begin their root systems while the crown remains dormant. Evergreens lose water through their leaves (needles) throughout winter. If the ground freezes, they can’t replace it. New trees will be stressed hard.
There is a way to plant correctly. Meyer states that the number one mistake with trees in landscapes is when they are too deep. Meyer suggests that root flares be planted two inches higher than the soil grade. It should look like a pair of bell-bottom jeans when you are done.
Know the Stakes
Glassey suggests that younger trees should be staked if they aren’t too tall.
She says that this helps with root stabilization and trunk taper development. “Staking material should be removed no later than the third year following installation, or adjusted at least periodically to avoid girdling the trunk or lower branches.”
Water the Right Way
Meyer states that deep watering, which Meyer recommends, is more frequent and leads to deeper roots, as well as better-developed trees.
He says, “If you water often and in short bursts all the roots will remain at the surface since that is where the moisture will go.” You can test for proper moisture by digging to your finger depths and creating a ball of soil using your fingers. If the soil drips out, it’s too dry.
Monster Tree Service certified arborist Randy Nelson recommends black soaker or drip hoses. These will allow you to water your tree the right way: Just a few feet from the trunk, but within a dripline (from the trunk to outer edges of the tree branches), and then rotate evenly around the tree.
Nelson also advises that you check whether the tree can withstand water spraying on its trunk. Palms will not.
Remember the Mulch
These guidelines are for tree mulch: Tree mulch should be one to two inches thick, spread out to the dripline, or below the tips of branches, and should not exceed three to five inches. Mulch should not be laid against the trunk. Meyer states that “any mulch is better than none” and that too much can be fatal. Mix in compost with your mulch to create super soils.
Glassey suggests that you rake and turn the mulch multiple times per year to stop mold growth.
Take care of your trees
Meyer states, “They are living beings just like you and your pets. They need input.” “Most people live in areas that have lost their natural topsoil. We remove all debris each fall to ensure the soil doesn’t get regenerated.”
Mulch and compost can be helpful. However, if you have soil that isn’t rich in nutrients, it may be necessary to hire a company that has a pressurized tanker truck. This will subterraneously inject nutrients into the root areas.
Beware of the Branches
Trees shouldn’t be feared, but it is important to keep your eyes open for any signs of danger. You should inspect your trees for any dead or broken branches, and if possible, remove them. Glassey recommends that you make use of the correct tools and maintain their sharpness if you are considering pruning trees.
She says that younger trees should leave the lower branches on the trunk for several more years in order to give the trunk the right taper. When pruning, do not remove the branch collar. A professional tree service company should perform any larger pruning, other than by hand tools.
Pesticides: Be careful
Meyer states, “If you’re using pesticides to control undesirable landscape pests, make sure you understand what you’re doing and why.” Many pests can be naturally controlled by beneficial insects that you may not be killing every time you spray. Nature is able to find a balance, so it’s okay to do a little bit of damage.