This winter, many regions in the U.S. saw unseasonably warm weather as the thermometer climbed to record temperatures. Yet those same regions also saw abnormal freezing cold.
While people may be reveling in the warmer temperatures, unusual weather confuses trees– especially when the warmth is sporadic. One day, it’s hot. The next, it's cool again.
Newly planted trees are particularly vulnerable because they’re still getting used to their new home, according to Adam Passo, district manager of the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Davey Tree office. But spring is the perfect time to give all trees the extra TLC they need to make it through the rest of the year.
Protect both newly planted and established trees by following these steps.
1. Check where the flare is. The mistake Passo says most people often make is planting trees too deep! When buried too deeply, tree roots decline in health and condition. That can mean reduced tree growth, decreased cold hardiness and increased disease and insect susceptibility. Some trees may let you know right away, but usually, symptoms lay dormant for years.
On all trees, make sure the root flare, where the trunk starts to bulge out at the bottom, is at or slightly above the ground level. Also, think back and recall if the hole the tree sits in was two-to-three times wider than the root ball. If that isn’t the case, it may be best to replant your new tree. For established trees, have a certified arborist excavate its root collar.
2. Water often. Because the roots of a newly planted tree are often incredibly dry, Passo says young trees should be deeply watered every day for the first two weeks. After that, water a new tree once a week for the first year, while it still has its leaves. By providing the tree with enough water, you’re helping grow strong, substantial roots while also promoting stem and leaf growth.
“You should water established trees about once or twice a month. Be sure to take rainfall into account before watering, too,” says Passo.
3. Lock in moisture. After planting a new tree, adding mulch is one of the best things you can do. It increases the growth rate of the trees, reduces weeds and improves your tree’s soil. Plus, mulch reduces water evaporation and keeps the tree roots at an ideal temperature, which is perfect given our recent weather.
For both new and mature trees, spread 2 to 4 inches of mulch around the base of your tree. Keep the mulch 1 to 2 inches from the trunk.
4. Proper pruning. On new trees, cut off minor branch defects, but that should be the extent of your pruning for a bit. In two or three years, you can begin to train your tree to improve your tree’s overall structure.
Before storm season, have a certified arborist see if any of your established trees need pruning. Thinning the tree canopy allows wind to blow through it instead of against it as though it was a sail. Pruning also removes potentially hazardous, dead or weak branches.
5. To stake or not to stake. “Most trees don’t need to be staked,” explains Passo. “Staking a tree unnecessarily can cause the tree to grow fewer roots and develop a weak base.” Only stake your tree if it’s top-heavy, already leaning or in an area with lots of foot traffic or wind. Plan to remove the stake the next growing season. If you add a stake now, remove it in the fall.
By thinking ahead, developing effective solutions, and taking a strategic approach to landscape maintenance, you will achieve top results–no matter the weather! Questions? Find a local, certified tree care specialist at Davey Tree.
The Davey Tree Expert Company provides research-driven tree services, grounds maintenance and environmental solutions for residential, utility, commercial and environmental partners across North America. As one of the largest employee-owned companies in the U.S., and headquartered in Kent, Ohio, since 1880, Davey is dedicated to creating and delivering sustainable solutions. Become part of the Davey legacy and apply today.