Many of us love the idea of having trees in the yard, but ensuring those trees remain healthy (and ensuring they don’t pose a safety hazard) can be tricky.
With the right combination of preventative strategies, ongoing upkeep, and attention when something goes wrong, you can keep your trees strong and beautiful for decades to come.
Important Tree Care Tips
Follow these tips for better tree care:
1. Understand that different trees have different needs. First, make sure you understand that different species of tree are going to have different climate preferences, different care needs, and different types of issues. Cleaning and maintaining palm trees is going to be much different than taking care of an oak. This knowledge is especially important if you plan on purchasing and/or planting trees for the first time; choosing the right trees for your yard or outdoor space can set you up for much better results.
2. Select a healthy tree from the start. If you’re planting a tree for the first time, you’ll want to start with a healthy tree. If your plant is healthy from the outset, it will have a much better chance of surviving and growing for many years. If you’re purchasing a seedling with the bare roots exposed, you should look for roots that are slightly damp and fibrous. Additionally, the roots should be roughly the length of the stem. If you’re buying balled or burlap-wrapped trees, the ball should be firm to the touch – with plenty of room. In containers, the tree roots should be joined tightly in the soil – and should not be too large or circling.
3. Leave them mostly alone. As you can see in any lush forest, trees aren’t reliant on human beings to grow. They’ve been growing tall and healthy for millions of years with no intervention. That’s why, for the most part, you can leave your trees alone and they’ll grow just fine. You don’t need to water them constantly, trim branches every day, or take other extreme actions; if you do, you could be hurting the tree more than helping. It’s also important to avoid harming the tree directly; building certain types of structures near the tree, hitting it with a lawnmower, and carving it can all damage the tree’s health.
4. Apply 2 to 3 inches of mulch. While caring for a tree, it’s a good idea to apply a few inches of mulch around the base. Mulch serves a number of important purposes. For example, it provides a thick layer of insulations, preventing roots from getting damaged by frost. It helps to absorb, distribute, and retain moisture, so trees have exactly as much water as they need. It also prevents the onset of weeds, minimizes compaction of soil, and can prevent certain types of human-originated damage.
5. Deeply water the tree during the early years. Most trees will get enough water naturally, but you can support your tree’s growth in its early years with some deep watering. In its first few years of life, your tree will be growing quickly – and expending nutrients and energy to do so. If you’re not getting much rainfall, it’s helpful to give your tree a “deep” watering, ensuring there’s plenty of water for deep roots to reach.
6. Familiarize yourself with tree diseases. Almost every type of tree is susceptible to certain kinds of diseases (and insect infestations). Most of these have external signs of setting in, such as discoloration or damage to the bark. Learn to recognize these signs and take action early to prevent further damage.
7. Follow the PINE method. The PINE method is an acronym that stands for: pruning, inspecting, nourishing, and extending. The first step in the method is to prune branches that have become too long, as well as ones that seem to be dying or struggling. A simple trim can keep your tree from overextending its reach (and prevent certain diseases). It’s also important to inspect your trees for limbs that are dying, signs of common diseases, and damage from bugs. Simple nourishment, with water and organic mulch, will keep them healthy, and you can extend the reach of your growing by planting new trees.
When to Call an Arborist
If you have trouble keeping up with the responsibilities of a tree care provider, or if you notice an issue with your trees that you can’t deal with on your own (such as a termite infestation or a tree disease), call an arborist or professional tree service. Experts will be able to come out to your property and, hopefully, eliminate the issue directly. The sooner you call and correct the problem, the better your chances of success will be.