Trees add beauty to your yard and landscape, purify the air, and provide much-needed shade. They are a great investment that can last for decades, but only if you know how to properly care for them.
Keep your trees healthy and avoid a Charlie Brown tree this year with these six Tree Care Tips and Hacks!
1. Water Your Tree Regularly
Trees add beauty, value and shade to homes and gardens, but they also require regular care to thrive. Failing to water your trees can make them vulnerable to pests, disease and even death. Watering is particularly important for newly planted and mature trees, especially during a drought. The best way to know if your tree is in need of water is by checking the soil. The top nine inches of the soil should be moist and not dry or sandy.
Whether you’re watering a young or mature tree, it’s essential to target the roots, not the trunk or leaves. When the roots are properly watered, your tree will absorb the water and nutrients it needs to grow strong and healthy. Aiming your water at the leaves or trunk, on the other hand, can cause the tree to rot.
The amount of water a tree requires varies widely based on size, species, climate and other factors, but one general rule is that established trees should be watered 10 gallons per inch of their diameter. To ensure that you’re watering your trees adequately, it’s a good idea to use a moisture probe or skewer to test the soil moisture.
In addition to the moisture probe, a soaker hose is a great tool for delivering the right amount of water to your tree’s roots. This type of hose allows the water to slowly trickle out its entire length, which means that it can penetrate the soil and reach the roots without wasting water through evaporation. Place the hose around your tree and turn it on so that the water is slowly soaking into the ground for 2 hours, then check to make sure the root ball is soaked.
If your hose doesn’t reach the base of your tree, you can also water it using a bucket. Fill the bucket and slowly pour it over the ground surrounding your tree, making sure to spread it out evenly. If possible, repeat this process five days a week to give your tree the deep watering it needs. While this may seem like a lot of work, the payoff is well worth it.
2. Apply Mulch
Mulching can be a great way to prevent and alleviate soil compaction while also adding nutrients to the soil. Most arborists recommend using organic mulches like wood chips, bark, leaf mold, or compost mixes as they can be a natural way to add organic material and increase the nutrient content of the soil. However, it is crucial that the right amount of mulch is applied to keep your tree healthy. Too much can create a mound of mulch or “mulch volcano” that may not only be unattractive, but it can also damage the tree by blocking the roots from receiving the oxygen they need.
In addition, piling up mulch too close to the trunk can cause fungus and other fungal diseases that can be detrimental to a tree’s health. The best practice is to spread a layer of mulch out to the drip line of the tree, keeping it pulled away from the trunk itself. This donut shape allows the root flare of the trunk to remain exposed and is a better alternative to the popular “volcano” style of mulching, as it prevents the rot of the trunk base and promotes air circulation.
The ring of mulch that extends out to the drip line should be no more than 2-3 inches deep and three feet or more around the trunk. Any deeper than this can lead to the accumulation of water and a lack of oxygen, which will suffocate the roots of your trees.
While a thin layer of mulch is a good thing, it’s important to keep the mulch at the bottom of the circle free from weeds and other grasses that may grow underneath. This ring should also be free from puddles, as they can cause waterlogged roots and promote the growth of harmful fungus. It is recommended to rake the ring of mulch and replenish it as needed to maintain a healthy layer of material. This will help to keep your yard looking neat and tidy and prevent the need for frequent weeding or pulling of weeds that could pull up the roots of your tree.
3. Keep It Clean
The process of putting up Christmas trees in the home can leave behind dust and debris that needs to be cleared away. Use a soft-bristled hand brush, feather duster, or a microfiber cloth to wipe the branches and base of the tree from top to bottom. If the tree is pre-lit, be careful not to damage any of the light bulbs as you go. A good technique is to start at the top of the tree and work your way down, taking care not to disturb any branches or light bulbs as you do so.
When a new tree is planted, it can take a while for the roots to establish themselves in the soil. Providing regular watering will help the tree survive this critical time. It’s also important to keep the soil moist to prevent dry, brittle tree roots and help reduce the risk of transplant shock.
After the tree is established, a three to 10-foot area should be mulched with natural material such as wood chips or bark pieces. This helps the roots grow and stay hydrated and also minimizes weed growth that could compete with the tree for water.
While the benefits of planting a tree far outweigh any inconvenience, it’s also crucial that we know how to properly care for our trees. This will not only ensure the safety and health of our trees, but it will also help ensure that they grow strong and mature, making them a long-term asset for homeowners and businesses alike.
Many common mistakes when caring for a tree are simple to correct, but can have major consequences for their health and longevity. These include:
Leaving lights on too long – This can lead to the tree drying out and becoming a fire hazard. It’s best to turn the lights off before you go to bed or when you won’t be around to monitor your tree.
Giving the tree a fresh cut – Even if you cut your own tree, you should make sure to give it a fresh cut as soon as possible. This will “prime” the trunk, allowing it to absorb water better.
4. Keep It Healthy
Trees are a beautiful addition to any yard and provide shade, curb appeal and clean air. They also help to prevent soil erosion and act as wildlife habitats. But like any other living thing, trees need care to keep them looking good and thriving.
The first step to keeping your trees healthy is to monitor them regularly for signs of disease or damage. This includes noticing changes in color, drooping leaves or growths on the trunk that could be caused by pests or other factors. You should also look for small holes in the trunk of a tree, which are often an indication of insect infestations.
Another way to ensure your trees are healthy is to avoid putting too much pressure on their roots. This means not planting them too close to your house or other structures and not walking or parking cars in areas where the roots are located. Additionally, you should not pile up rubble or other materials on the root zone of a tree. This can suffocate the roots and prevent them from getting enough oxygen, which can lead to health problems for the tree.
If you notice that a tree is struggling, it’s important to provide it with extra water and other nutrients as needed. You should also prune it on a regular basis to promote growth and to remove dead or unhealthy branches. If you don’t have the time or skill to do this yourself, you can hire a professional tree service to do it for you.
In addition, it’s important to watch out for any signs of heat stress in your trees during the summer. This includes noticing drooping leaves, withered foliage or a yellowing of the leaves. It’s also a good idea to keep in mind that these symptoms can mimic the effects of drought, which is why it’s important to monitor your trees regularly throughout the summer.
Finally, you should also be wary of invasive species that can harm your trees. This includes watching out for things like leaf rust, which is a reddish-orange “rusty” looking spot that is actually a fungus that interferes with photosynthesis. You should also watch out for salt used on icy roads, which can damage trees that aren’t salt-tolerant.