Giving Your Tree the Love It Deserves!
Your tree will provide you shade, lower your energy bill, raise the value of your house and look great doing it! Like any living thing, it needs some attention to do its best. Check out each of these topics to learn more.
Tree watering is a key part of tree care in our dry-summer climate. It is difficult to recommend a specific amount and frequency to water due to differences in soils such as drainage and clay content.
- Watering Newly Planted Trees: For new trees, water immediately after you plant a tree.
- Watering Trees During First Two Years: During the first couple growing seasons, your newly planted tree is expending a lot of energy trying to get its roots established in the soil. Especially during the first few summers of your new trees life, it will have a difficult time dealing with heat and drought. You can make this easier by providing water and covering the soil with wood-chip mulch. Deep watering can help speed the root establishment. Deep water consists of keeping the soil moist to a depth that includes all the roots.
How Much Water and When
- Not enough water is harmful for the tree but too much water is bad as well. Over-watering is a common tree care mistake. Please note that moist is different than soggy, and you can judge this by feel. A damp soil that dries for a short period will allow adequate oxygen to permeate the soil.
- As a rule of thumb your soil should be moist. Usually 30 seconds with a steady stream of water from a garden hose w/ a diffuser nozzle per tree seedling is sufficient. Mulching is also key in retaining moisture in the soil.
- You can check soil moisture by using a garden trowel and inserting it into the ground to a depth of 2″, and then move the blade of the trowel back and forth to create a small narrow trench. Then use your finger to touch the soil. If it is most to the touch, then they do not need water.
- Watering Trees After the First Two Years: After your tree has been established in your yard for two years the roots will be established. This will allow your tree to withstand a wider range of water conditions including on its own because it has a proper root structure.
If your area constantly deals with drought you will want to consider trees listed as drought-tolerant. These trees are adapted to sites in their native habitat that regularly experience prolonged dry spells. Although they are native to drought and are more tolerant than others the first few years of life is critical to the survival of the any tree and follow the steps above will help your trees grow.
How To Stake
Staking a newly planted tree can stabilize it until it's roots and trunk are strong. Stakes can also protect the tree from damage from lawn mowers or enthusiastic kids playing.
You will probably want to stake trees in windy areas such as new housing developments. Evergreen trees with large crowns, tall trees, and trees with skinny trunks should also be staked.
Shorter trees that have a sturdy trunk may not need to be staked. Once you have planted your tree, push on the trunk to see if it bends excessively or if the root-ball moves. If so, stake the tree.
To stake a tree you will need two poles and some flexible ties. The poles can be 2" round or rectangular. If you have a rambunctious family, or your tree is close to the sidewalk or road, consider adding a third stake for protection.
Ties should have some stretch. Young trees gain strength by swaying and moving in the wind. A great tie material is strips of an old t-shirt. It won't cut into the delicate tree bark and will stretch a fair amount while still keeping the tree stable. Do not buy ties that have wire in them, these will not allow the tree to sway and will cut into the trunk if you forget to remove them.
Nurseries often have black rubber ties with some stretch or green tape ties. Either are fine, if you check them occasionally to be sure they are not too tight or loose.
Pound the stakes into the ground outside of the root-ball of the tree and far enough away to keep the stakes from touching the tree.
Wrap each tie around one stake and the tree trunk in a figure 8. Use the other tie at the same height on the other stake. You want enough tension on the ties to keep the tree pretty straight, but still allow it to sway. Some skinny-trunked trees may need a second set of ties to keep the trunk straight.
Tip: Tie the ties to the stake so you can untie them to check on how strong the trunk is getting.
Trees usually only need to be staked for one to two winters. Check in the late spring to see how the tree is gaining strength. If the root-ball still moves when you sway the tree, keep the stakes on for a few months longer.
Remember to remove the stakes when they are not needed any longer.
The Importance of Mulching
A newly planted tree’s best friend is mulch. It is very important to remember to mulch your tree after you have planted it.
Why mulch is valuable for your trees’ health and care:
- Mulch insulates the soil helping to provide a buffer from heat and cold temperatures.
- Mulch retains water helping to keep the roots moist.
- Mulch keeps weeds out to help prevent root competition.
- Mulch prevents soil compaction.
- Mulch reduces lawn mower damage.
Steps to Adding Mulch Around Your Tree
- Add mulch to the base of your tree by removing any grass within a 3 to 10 foot area depending on the size of your tree.
- Pour natural mulch such as wood chips or bark pieces 2 to 4 inches deep within the circle.
- Keep the mulch from touching the trunk of the tree.
How to Prune
Trees benefit from pruning to help them develop a strong structure and keep it for their entire life. The type of pruning differs between young and mature trees as does who should prune them.
We encourage owners to train their young trees to encourage them to grow strong and beautiful. This training can be done by owners who understand the principles of the training, have the right tools, and can safely prune while standing on the ground. One benefit of owner-pruning is that it can be done as often as needed to keep the tree growing correctly. This results in smaller cuts, which close faster and helps trees grow up into strong trees faster.
When to Hire an Expert
We recommend that owners hire qualified arborists to prune and manage mature and older trees. These professionals have the equipment and expertise to properly and safely prune these larger trees. Not only do larger trees have larger branches which pose risk if improperly cut, but the pruning often needs to be performed high up in the tree which heightens the risk of personal or property injury. Hire a qualified arborist if the branch you want to cut is over 3″ across or if you cannot reach it from the ground. Pruning is not something people are born knowing, but you can invest a bit of time to learn how to properly and safely prune your trees, and to know when to call in the experts.
Hiring an Arborist
Proper pruning is important for strong, vigorous, long-lived trees. When trees are young, we recommend that you train them to encourage a strong and beautiful structure. Homeowners can learn to prune their own young trees with minimal risk of damage to their tree or injury to themselves. But as trees get larger, we recommend hiring a qualified arborist for this task who will keep trees growing strong without risk of injury to yourself or damage to your tree or property. Reputable arborists have the education, experience and equipment to care for your trees safely, and can provide specific recommendations for your tree and your specific situation.
Quality Tree Care
Most arborists prune trees by climbing into them. This enables them to move around the canopy and inspect the branches. They will be safely tied into the tree and can lower pruned branches without damaging property. Sometimes arborists choose to prune a tree from a lift truck, but it is not required in most situations and can add to the expense.
Quality tree care is not inexpensive, but pays off in healthier, safer trees. Use these guidelines to make sure you are getting quality work.
Guidelines for Selection
- Find out how long the company has been in business.
- Ask if they follow the standards recommended by the International Society of Arboriculture Tree Pruning Guidelines, ANSI A300 Pruning Standards, and ANSI Z133 Safety Requirements.
- Ask for verification of appropriate professional certification such as by the International Society of Arboriculture for arborists and tree workers.
- Ask for certificates of insurance, including proof of liability for person and property damage, and workman’s compensation.
- Ask for proof of state contractor’s license and check status with the State Contractors License Board.
- Ask for at least three local references, and contact them. Drive by and look at the trees, a properly pruned tree will look like a nice tree, with small pruning wounds (less than 3″ across is best) which may or may not be noticeable. A poorly pruned tree may have large pruning wounds or large branches cut off (topped). These large cuts are more likely to be infected by decay organisms leading to structurally weak trees.
- Have more than one professional look at the job and give estimates.