Trees are a major asset to the landscape. They provide shade, energy reduction, and protection from the elements year-round.
But they can also be susceptible to problems that can kill or stunt their growth. This is why proper care for your trees is so important!
1. Keep the Soil Moisture Levels Right
Keeping the soil moisture levels right is crucial to healthy tree growth. This is because water provides a vital source of plant nutrients and it also serves as a solvent to help plants absorb fertilizer.
However, excessively dry soil can negatively affect your trees by reducing the amount of oxygen available to roots. This can lead to root rot and other issues that can harm the health of your tree.
Soil moisture can be measured using various methods and technologies (Figure 1 below). For example, a gravimetric method, which weighs a sample of soil after it is collected and then weighed again after it has dried, is an accurate and relatively inexpensive way to check for moisture.
2. Remove Dead Branches
Dead branches are an eyesore and can hinder the growth of healthy branches. They also pose a serious safety hazard and can cause severe damage during bad weather.
Removing dead branches can improve the health of your trees by closing off pathways for pests to enter. They can also prevent rot from spreading to other parts of your tree.
A properly pruned branch removes the weight of the branch and forms a callus that helps the tree heal faster. Improper cuts can cause irreversible damage to the tree.
The most common bad cut is a flush cut, which removes the branch collar. A stub cut, on the other hand, prunes too far away from the trunk.
3. Apply Fertilizer
In forests and other natural environments, trees usually receive all of the nutrients they need from their surroundings. In home landscapes, however, trees may not be growing in optimal conditions and need fertilizer to improve their health.
Trees may show signs of nutrient deficiency including yellowing leaves, smaller leaves, shorter twig growth and leaf dieback. These symptoms are not always due to nutrient deficiencies, but rather are symptomatic of other problems such as heavy soil compaction; pests or diseases; or environmental stress caused by weeds or drought.
Applying fertilizer correctly is critical for a tree’s long-term health and success. Using a slow-release fertilizer is ideal. A fertilizer that releases nutrients quickly could cause the roots to “burn” and damage the plant.
4. Remove Weeds
Weeds compete with the plants you want to grow in your lawn or garden for water and nutrients. They may also attract pests or diseases.
They also take away the soil moisture that your trees need to thrive. This is one of the reasons why you need to remove them as soon as possible.
The best time to do this is in early Spring. This is when weeds are emerging and their roots are not lodged deeply in the soil, making them easier to hand weed.
You can remove weeds by boiling water or by using a solution of common salt. This will kill the weeds but not damage the tree’s roots.
5. Water the Tree Regularly
One of the best ways to improve the health of your trees is to water them regularly. Not only does this ensure they are getting the right amount of water, but it also ensures that they aren’t wasting water.
Trees are a vital part of our landscape, providing a multitude of social and environmental benefits. They can help keep people healthier, cool urban areas in summer, warm homes in winter, reduce crime and decrease energy costs.
Newly planted trees need to be watered daily until they become established, while mature trees need only occasional watering during the hotter months. Watering early in the morning and evening is ideal, as this prevents evaporation and helps the roots absorb more of the water they need.
6. Mulch the Tree
Mulching is an easy and inexpensive way to improve the health of your trees. It can shade and cool the soil, increase organic matter, and reduce soil compaction.
Tree roots need to stay moist to survive, and mulch will help keep the soil moist, even when it’s raining. It also prevents water from pooling against the trunk, which can cause rot.
The best mulch for trees is a thick layer of organic material, such as shredded bark or wood chips, that’s about two to four inches deep. It should be distributed widely, and extend out to the drip line or further if possible.
It should never be piled against the trunk, as this can create a condition called a “mulch volcano” that invites decay and pests. It can also create an environment for harmful wood-decay fungi to live and flourish.
7. Keep the Trunk Clean
Being surrounded by beautiful trees is one of the many joys of living in the country. They add shade and beauty to your property, as well as significantly increase the value of your home.
Trees also provide a lot of benefits, from reducing energy costs to providing oxygen and mitigating soil erosion. But if they are not well-maintained, they can quickly degrade and become a liability.
Keeping your trunk clean is an easy and effective way to improve the health of your trees. It can help you keep your car looking great, too!
8. Remove Stakes
Stakes can help support a tree’s rootball as it grows into the ground, but too many stakes can prevent a plant from developing its natural trunk taper. Stakes that restrict movement can also make trees susceptible to breakage and bending.
To determine if stakes are needed, hold the tree in one hand and gently rock it back and forth, moving from side to side until you find the point where it stays upright. This will usually be about half to two-thirds of the tree’s height.
Drive one or two parallel stakes (wood or metal) about a foot into the soil at opposite sides of the root ball. Attach the tree to the stakes with flexible ties. They should be loose enough to allow the tree’s trunk to sway in the wind without breaking, but tight enough not to restrict movement.
9. Watch for Signs of Stress
The health of your trees can be impacted by many factors. It’s important to watch for signs of stress that may be affecting them.
If a tree is losing leaves earlier than expected or has pale coloration and slow growth, it’s likely stressed due to pests, disease or soil compaction.
A healthy tree has access to the sun, key nutrients and a free space to grow into. It’s also able to conserve energy, which can help it resist pests and diseases.
If you notice signs of stress in your trees, it’s time to make an appointment with a tree service professional. They can create a plant health care plan to help improve the overall health of your trees.
10. Contact an Arborist
Trees serve a lot of different purposes in our communities, including cleaning the air and providing shelter for wildlife. However, if trees are not properly cared for they could become a safety hazard and cause damage to property and utilities.
Arborists are professionals who are trained in the proper maintenance of trees and shrubs. They know how to trim, prune, and remove them safely so that they can remain healthy and beautiful for years to come. A Kelowna arborist will prove to be indispensable if you’re someone who cares greatly for your garden or lawn.
They also offer other services such as insect control, fertilization, cabling, aeration, and lightning protection. They can also consult with you about plant health care plans, garden planning, and any concerns that you have with your existing trees or shrubs.