tree care

Cool New Ways To Take Care Of Your Trees

Trees are a gift to us. They keep cities cool, provide food and shelter to animals and help control erosion. They also aerate soil, reduce excess carbon dioxide and offer wind breaks.

To get the most benefit from trees, properly water them, prune them and mulch them. Also, avoid using wound paints, which may impede natural healing and make the plant susceptible to disease.

1. Watering

Trees need water to survive, but it’s important that you know how to give them the right amount and at the proper times. Watering trees properly helps them thrive and grow taller, which makes them a beautiful addition to your landscape. It also helps them fend off disease, drought and insect attacks.

Young and newly planted trees need regular watering to establish their root system. Even mature trees can need extra watering in dry conditions. In general, a mature tree requires about an inch of water a week. Newly planted trees need to be watered regularly, often every couple of weeks, for two years after planting.

It’s important to monitor the soil around your trees and look for signs of overwatering (like wilting leaves). In many cases, a good way to check if a tree needs water is simply to stick your finger in the ground. If it’s hard to the touch, then it’s time to water.

Transpiration is another important part of a tree’s watering system. During transpiration, water evaporates from the underside of the leaves and is drawn up through the roots. This process cools the leaves, allows for oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange, and moves nutrients up the plant. Without adequate water, your plants can’t absorb these vital nutrients.

When you’re ready to water your trees, make sure to use a soaker hose or other slow-release method. Avoid using a sprayer, which can oversaturate the soil and promote fungus growth. If you’re using a soaker hose, be sure to place it in different spots in the dripline, to make sure that all of the far-reaching roots get enough moisture. It’s also a good idea to remove the grass and weeds from around your trees before watering, so that the water can reach their roots easily.

2. Pruning

Trees are vitally important to our landscapes, providing oxygen and beauty to yards and buildings. However, they require a bit of care to ensure they thrive for generations. In addition to watering, one of the most important actions homeowners can take is pruning. Proper pruning helps maintain the health of trees, protects homes and property from damage during storms, and keeps people and pets safe.

Pruning involves the targeted removal of diseased, dead, non-productive, or structurally unsound plant material. These general categories are often referred to as the 4 D’s of pruning:

The specific cuts that are made to a plant depend on its purpose. For example, thinning cuts remove crossing or rubbing branches, shorten a wide-spreading plant, and promote airflow in the canopy. Formative pruning shapes a young tree to its desired shape, while corrective or emergency pruning deals with problems that arise in mature plants. Pruning also includes removing water grow development, removing suckers to prevent them from competing with the main leader of a multi-leader tree, and crown cleaning.

Overgrown limbs pose a safety hazard during storms, resulting in damage to houses and cars, or even injury to people and pets. They can also interfere with power lines and cause damage to the structure of a home. Pruning prevents these problems by maintaining proper clearance between a home and its surrounding trees.

When pruning, always use the proper tool for the job. Bumping into a trunk with lawn mowers or whipping it with shears damages the bark and opens wounds that can invite insect invasion and diseases to attack a plant. Pruning should ideally be done in spring or fall, when the cambium layer is most active in closing and healing the pruning cut.

3. Weeding

When they grow out of control, weeds can become bullies in the garden, competing for resources with more desirable, intentionally cultivated plants. In an orchard, weeds can also be a hindrance to tree growth because they crowd out the biologically active first foot of soil where the majority of a fruit tree’s roots develop.

Despite the common notion that all weeds are bad, in some settings, they perform important ecological functions, including preserving and reclaiming exposed or degraded soils. Weeds also provide food for microorganisms and insects, and their decaying roots make pathways and tunnels for worms. This biodiversity helps soils to store and release nutrients.

In addition, many weeds—such as nutgrass and kans—have economic value for their use in manufacturing essential oil, which is used in perfumery and other industries. They also help control nematodes, which are roundworms that can damage crops.

Weeding is important to keep weeds at bay in the short term, but it should be done with care to not damage trees and their root systems. Using hand-held weed eaters is a great way to keep weeds under control, especially when the weeds are young and their roots have not yet established. Mulching, which is a long-term strategy, is also an option to help control weeds in the orchard.

However, a mulch layer should not be too thick or it could impede root growth, which can lead to tree health problems. In addition, it is best to use organic materials for mulching, such as wood chips or bark that decompose slowly. Avoid plastic or rubber weed barriers as they can leach harmful chemicals into the soil and can also harm tree roots.

4. Mulching

Taking care of trees is important to keep them healthy and beautiful. It also helps to protect your home and property. A healthy tree is less likely to die, snap or fall over, and it will add value to your property.

One of the most important things you can do to help your trees is to mulch them regularly. By placing a layer of mulch around the base of your tree, you can lock in moisture and reduce competition from other plants like grass. Mulch can also provide valuable nutrients to the soil as it decomposes.

If you are looking for ways to be more environmentally conscious, consider using organic mulches that don’t contain petrochemicals. You can get these at your local nursery or garden center or by recycling decomposing organic material in your yard. Mulching can also encourage the growth of beneficial fungus, which can suppress harmful pathogens and bacteria.

Keeping a mulch ring at the base of your tree can also prevent damage caused by lawn mowers and string trimmers. These machines can damage the bark of young and growing trees by tamping down the ground around the trunk. Mulch can prevent this by creating a barrier between the root system and the soil below.

However, you should not create a “mulch volcano” or pile up too much mulch around the base of your tree. Too much mulch can suffocate the trunk, which can lead to rot and decay. It can also block oxygen from getting to the roots, which can also contribute to rot. When you plant a new tree, check the soil to make sure it is moist. If the soil is moist, you may not need to water it again for a few days.

5. Insect Control

Trees are part of the ecosystem that makes our yards a pleasant place to spend time. They offer shelter for wildlife, clean the air and provide shade to help reduce energy costs. Yet, these beautiful landscape staples can be damaged or killed by harmful pests. Identifying and preventing pest infestations can save your trees from devastation, so it’s important to regularly inspect them. Look for signs such as chewed leaves, webbing, tunnels and thinning foliage. Early detection will allow for quick action and prevent the problem from spreading and causing severe damage.

The best way to protect your trees is to keep them healthy by observing and following basic care practices, such as regular watering, mulching, pruning and soil testing. Proper maintenance will also attract beneficial insects to prey on the bad bugs that can harm your plants.

To reduce the risk of an insect infestation, regularly remove fallen fruit from your apple and other fruit trees and be sure to meticulously clean up leaves and debris around your trees. This will reduce the food source for pests and reduce the amount of pesticide you need to use.

In addition, promote beneficial insects that will help control insect pests by planting a mix of flowers and herbs in your yard and garden. For example, bee balm and bronze fennel will attract predators that will feed on aphids and other aphid pests.

Another helpful tool is systemic insecticide, which suffocates small insects by being absorbed into the roots of your plants. Apply these products as soon as the weather warms up, such as in mid-to late spring, to prevent harmful insects from developing into the crawler stage and damaging your plant.