Trees are certainly the most benevolent members of our great global society. Their boughs and leaves shade our homes and cities effectively reducing energy costs. They also boost property value, prevent soil erosion, sequester harmful toxins and contamination, and provide a home for wildlife. Trees can even soothe the senses and have been linked to reduced crime rates in major cities.
Since they have been providing their essential planetary services since before mammals even arrived on this planet — and with absolutely no thanks required— it is easy to forget the care we can provide to these gentle giants.
To promote the health and longevity of your trees, here are some important tree care tips from The Tree Center to keep in mind.
1. Plant the right tree.
The best way to ensure the happiness and longevity of your trees, choose the right ones. Some trees are better adapted to the climate and soil on your land. Some trees need more sunlight or much less moisture. To be sure the trees you will have on your property are going to be thriving and healthy, you can check with your local Cooperative Extension System office or a local nursery.
2. Remove stakes early
A tree that is allowed to sway with the wind will develop a much stronger trunk. If your tree is not able to stand well on its own, you can use the two-stake system to keep the tree steady. One stake on either side with a soft band to support the thin trunk. As soon as the tree is standing alone, you can remove the stakes — typically this should be done before the tree is a year old.
3. Keep the grass away.
Grass growing near to the tree will be competition for nutrients and moisture — and has a special advantage. Young trees are especially vulnerable to the effects of grass and will develop poorly if the grass is allowed to grow right up close to the tree’s roots. For best results, maintain a grass-free section of mulched land around the tree to keep the grass at bay.
4. Water properly.
Young trees and mature trees alike need a certain amount of moisture, especially during dry seasons. Water your trees deeply and saturate the entire root zone — which can be 2-3 feet deep for most mature trees. Water from the base of the tree to the drip line — which runs around the circumference of the tree’s canopy. Allow the surface soil to dry before watering again.
5. Fertilize when needed.
Proper nutrients are essential for a healthy tree, but this can be a very delicate process. A soil test will indicate what nutrients or fertilizer is the best choice for your property. Young trees typically need more fertilizer than old trees. If you have questions about the best way to perform this task, consider calling in a professional arborist.
Organic mulch can be used to cool the soil, lock in moisture, and reduce the presence of weeds and grass near the tree. Straw, compost, or other forms of organic mulch can be placed under the canopy extending from the base of the tree. Keep this replenished often. You can find some helpful tips on mulching here.
7. Protect the roots.
Never allow cars or heavy machinery to run over the root area of the tree. Heavy machinery or cars can compact the soil and kill root systems. You should also not add or remove soil from this area without the recommendations of a certified arborist.
8. Protect the trunk.
The bark of the tree is the skin that protects the tree within from damage. If you bump the trunk with vehicles or slash it with weed-eaters, the protective capacity of this layer of bark is diminished. Young trees are especially susceptible to this type of damage. Always maintain a 2 –3 foot safety zone around your trees.
9. Control pests.
Adult Japanese Beetles, Caterpillars, and a host of other worms, grubs, and insects can wreak havoc on a healthy tree. A suitable insecticide can protect your tree for as long as a full year. If you are not sure what type of pests you are facing or what the best solution would be, consult with your local pest control services, nursery, or arborist.