Nine comprehensive tree care tips will take you step by step, from selecting and planting the right tree to the care and upkeep of a mature tree.
It is important to remember that proper tree care starts when you select a tree and that what you do to your tree in its first few years of life will affect its shape, strength, and even its life span. Following these steps will make sure your tree gets on the correct foot and remains healthy throughout its life.
- Finding a Tree
- Selecting a Healthy Tree
- Tree Planting
- The Importance of Mulch
- Tree Watering
- When to Prune
- Keys to Good Tree Pruning
- Annual Tree Pruning Steps from Planting to Maturity
- How to Identify Pest and Disease Problems
*info provided from Arbor Day Foundation
By onthehouse on February 11, 2018
You may be looking out of your window at your yard and wondering, “where am I even going to start”. Bayeradvanced.com released an article that says, “trees are low-maintenance, not no-maintenance” and they are the right place to start. When it comes to spring care, tree maintenance should be high on your priority list. Here are six easy steps to taking care of your trees once spring arrives.
-Start by cleaning up. Take down any holiday decorations that may still be up and rake up around the base of the tree.
-Follow that up with some mulch. A layer of mulch will not only help maintain moisture, but it will also assist in keeping those unwanted weeds out.
-Next, give your trees a good watering– especially in those areas where the de-icing product was used. This may also be a good time to check your sprinkler systems for leaks or clogs.
-Then, give your trees a trim. Now that the leaves are beginning to unfurl it will be easy to locate and remove any dead, or damaged tree branches.
-After you give your trees their spring haircut, take some time to inspect their trunks. If there are any signs of disease or excessive damage, call Hometown Tree Experts at 301-250-1033 if you are in the Howard/Montgomery Counties of Maryland or nearby area.
-Finally, find out if there are any new or existing pests that may threaten your trees. If so, make sure you’re taking the proper steps to keep your trees safe.
Article by John Fech from March 14, 2018 Tree Service Magazine
Pines grow in most every state of the U.S., and are planted for many reasons. They offer year-round color, protect homes from wind and snow, subtle fragrance, harborage for wildlife and a great backdrop to help show off ornamentals planted in front of them. Unfortunately, they are susceptible to several maladies.
It’s important to keep pines viable by providing good tree care especially in two areas, separating trees from turf and proper planting procedures. These basic, but foundational factors are all-important and should always be a reference point when diagnosing tree maladies such as ones on pines.
Separation & Planting
Why are separation and planting so important? There are many reasons, but perhaps the most influential is that these are implementations that get a tree off to the best start possible if done correctly and mistakes that can’t be corrected if not.
Separation – This means designing or re-designing the landscape so that the trees are here and the turf is over there. Think about it. Trees are woody, while turf is herbaceous. Turf usually receives moderate to high volumes of water and fertilizer, and requires mowing. When trees are growing in a co-located landscape setting, they are usually over fertilized and over watered, and constantly run into with lawn mowing equipment; not a healthy environment.
Planting – Good planting practices include: digging a wide but shallow hole, pulling tangled roots apart, placing the root mass such that the uppermost lateral root is even with or slightly above grade, using existing/native soil instead of amended soil to backfill around roots, watering thoroughly to settle the roots, placing wood chip or pine needle mulch over the roots but not the bole and checking the soil moisture weekly to make sure that it’s moist but not soggy or dry. These are all important parts of the process. Way, way too many times trees are planted too deeply, in heavily amended soils, watered once and forgotten, covered with rock mulch and planter boxes built over the roots and more — these practices prevent tree success.
Diseases are not just biological — it’s both — pathogenic and abiotic causes that challenge the overall health of pines. Regular scouting, often referred to as monitoring will help identify possible concerns that are site related (mower blight, leaving stakes on too long, deep planting, over mulching, etc.) and ones that are caused by fungi, nematodes and bacteria. Inspection packages go a long way toward avoiding tree troubles.
A couple of weeks ago, local temperatures were quite frigid. During a similar stretch of severe weather up in west Michigan, most of their sycamore trees across town literally exploded. As a species, sycamores retain a great deal of water. The water within the wood can freeze to the point where the expansion in the wood cells causes tree trunks to burst.
-Following steps were taken from an article by John Fech in the November 2012 issue of Tree Services Magazine
By itself, tree decay can be a major concern, especially if found in a soft-wooded tree species such as your silver maple or poplar. Fortunately, some species are quite resistant and if other stressors aren’t present in a significant capacity, it may not be as worrisome as other problems such as poor location, planting errors, over fertilization or drought. A step-by-step approach works best when inspecting trees for decay:
- Use your eyes. Look for rot pockets, oozing, weeping, conks and different colors on the bark and branches.
- Walk the property extensively and identify possible targets.
- Use your experience. Certain tree species in certain locations are likely to develop decay. Locate tree parts that could fall on a target.
- Look closer using probing tools: golf club, rebar or irrigation flag. Use a rubber mallet or the butt of a hatchet to tap the tree trunk where you suspect decay is present.
- If necessary, use invasive tools such as a resistograph or core sampler. Reserve these for important tree specimens. Consider the use of a sonic tomograph, a device that can illustrate the inside of the tree without cutting into it.
- Consider the potential for each tree defect to cause failure in conjunction with the proximity of an important target.
- Put it all together in the form of a relative hazard assessment, combining the presence and extent of the decay with other defects.
*shared from Tree Services Magazine article by Sharon Lilly from 1/1/13
There may be a battle brewing on your property between your trees grass. Trees and turf tend to be mutually exclusive in nature; you don’t see many trees growing in the prairies or grasslands as you may have noticed that grass is not common on the forest floor.
Our urban landscapes represent an unnatural ecosystem in which we force two somewhat incompatible plant types together and expect optimum performance from each. Trees and turf compete for sunlight, water, mineral nutrients and growing space below ground. Turf roots typically outcompete tree roots and win the belowground battle. However, the dense shade of a tree’s crown can be too much competition for turf, and trees win the aerial war.
Shade leads to reduced grass density, increased root competition and increased weed invasion. There are some varieties of turf that are somewhat shade tolerant, but this may be a partial solution, because shade-tolerant grasses tend to be less tolerant of wear.
Pruning for light penetration
Pruning to increase light penetration should be considered, keeping in mind that it is not a permanent solution. An important axiom to remember is that trees will grow into the voids created by pruning. Keep in mind the old rule of thumb not to remove more than one-fourth of the tree’s foliage-bearing crown in a single pruning. If a tree is topped or thinned too much, it will be stressed and will probably produce many water sprouts (suckers) along its branches to compensate for lost foliage. This defeats the purpose of pruning to allow more light penetration.
It may help to “raise” a tree’s crown to improve light penetration. Crown raising involves the removal of lower branches, and most tree species are tolerant of this pruning practice. Crown raising, however, does not significantly increase sunlight to the turf in most cases.
Some trees have a tendency to form surface roots, which can be a major problem in lawns. Besides ruining the appearance of the turf, they can interfere with mowing equipment, and can even become a safety hazard. Homeowners always want to know to what extent they can prune or remove tree roots without bringing about the demise of a tree. Since cut roots tend to develop more roots, root pruning is usually not a good solution.
The most simple maintenance recommendation is perhaps also the most important: mulch. Mulching the root areas of trees is probably the least expensive but most beneficial thing you can do to enhance tree health and minimize competition with turf. Mulch helps retain soil moisture, moderates soil temperature, and reduces competition from weeds. Organic mulch can help condition the soil and improve microbial activity.
Apply mulch about 3 to 4 inches deep, but do not pile it against the trunk of the tree. As far as the trees are concerned, the bigger the mulched area the better. Group trees together in mulch beds and extend the mulched areas as far out as practical.
There is a long-standing, but inaccurate, belief that trees must be “deep-root” fertilized. This belief is associated with the myth that a tree’s root system is an underground mirror of the crown. Because most of the absorbing roots are actually in the upper few inches of soil, it makes little sense to place the fertilizer deeper.
If the lawn is being fertilized and trees are occupying the same area, the trees might not require supplemental fertilization. The key to any fertilization program is to base the application on the plant’s needs. Soil and foliar analyses can provide the information required to make an educated decision about nutrient needs.
Mowing equipment and string trimmers can damage trees. Most people don’t realize the degree of damage that can be caused by the bumping of a mower or the whipping action of the nylon string in a trimmer. A tree’s bark can provide only so much protection against these devices. Young, thin-barked trees can be damaged almost immediately. In the worst-case scenario, the trees are eventually girdled and die. Those that are not killed will be stressed. The wounds may serve as entry points for diseases, borers or other insects. Many canker rot and root decay fungi have entered trees from wounds created by lawn and landscape maintenance workers.
Herbicides, especially broadleaf weed killers, are often used on lawns. Since most trees are broadleaved plants they can be injured or killed if high enough doses reach them. Homeowners must keep in mind that “weed and feed” fertilizers contain herbicides that can damage trees.
Achieving a balance
Trees and turf can peacefully coexist and even thrive together in a landscape. Armed with an understanding of how each affects the other, you can modify your landscapes and adjust your maintenance procedures to optimize the growing conditions for both.
One of the best things you can do to ensure a beautiful, healthy and thriving spring landscape is to properly put your yard and plants to bed before the harsh weather arrives.
Whether you’re mourning summer’s end or unpacking your winter boots in anticipation of cooler days, these tips will help you prioritize what needs to be done before the snow flies.
In The Yard
- Prune back shrubs in late fall (after a couple of frosts) to keep them protected from winds and heavy snow and encourage healthy spring growth.
- Wait to prune and shape your trees until after they have gone dormant.
- Harvest all fruit from trees and the ground to prevent them from rotting in the winter, attracting pests and diseases.
- Mulch around your trees to help moderate the soil temperature and prevent the loss of moisture. Adding a good fertilizer will help promote root growth for robust new growth in the spring.
- Wrapping your trees from top to bottom can help prevent sunscald and damage from deer and other animals throughout the winter.
- Fall is the perfect time to plant new trees and shrubs. Young trees have a chance to become established before the heat of summer, and the cooler temperatures help promote new root growth.
- Remove all diseased or dead branches and trees from the yard before they become a problem next year. If they’re too large or hard to reach, hire a certified tree removal company to do it for you.
- Don’t forget to water your lawn, trees and perennials during dry spells. Even while dormant, plants need water to survive.
- Rake leaves and dead grass periodically throughout the fall and winter. A buildup of debris on your lawn can harbor pests and fungal disease, prevent proper drainage and suffocate the grass below.
- Aerating and fertilizing your lawn before winter sets in is a good way to stimulate root growth and encourage a healthy yard next spring.
In The Garden
- Pull out vegetables and annuals that are done for the season and discard or compost them. Leaving them in the ground during the winter encourages pests and disease.
- Remove any lingering weeds now; some weeds can overwinter and go to seed early the next spring.
- Layer mulch on your garden beds and ornamental shrubs. Leaves or straw work well as a winter cover, or you can use burlap sacks, which should be removed in early spring. This helps the soil retain heat and moisture, while suppressing weed germination the following season.
- Cut back on the amount of work next spring and prepare your garden beds now. Adding compost and manure in the fall allows the freezing and thawing cycle to work it into the soil for you.
- Tilling garden soil before the ground freezes helps to prevent dormant insects from taking residence in your garden during the winter (and at the same time, provides a nice snack for the birds).
In The Tool Shed
- Now’s the time to clean and disinfect garden tools and pots by removing caked on soil, rinsing them with bleach (to prevent the spread of disease), and storing them in a sheltered place.
- Take note of which garden supplies need to be replenished and purchase them now at a discount!
When it comes to your yard, a little work now will make for a beautiful spring. When your landscape is properly “put to bed” for the winter, it will be healthier and require less maintenance next year, allowing you to sit back and enjoy spring’s show.
Even after a tree is selected and installed based on the site conditions of sun, shade, soil drainage, proximity to other trees and shrubs, nutrient availability, desired size, slope, surroundings, adjacent activity and more, it can fail to thrive.
Sometimes that’s because the tree wasn’t chosen well and sometimes it’s because it wasn’t planted well. But even more critical to the tree’s success is where it was planted. A tree’s proper location usually will determine whether it becomes an asset or detriment to the landscape.
Tried and true: RPRP
The gold standard of “Right Plant, Right Place” still reigns supreme.
Most arborists would say failure to mind this guiding principle begins with a lack of consideration for the tree’s size. Many reasons exist for this, including lack of foresight and denial that a certain species will actually get that big or wide. Many property owners are too lazy or self-centered to consider the future of their land and the potential ramifications associated with it.
The next consideration is the square footage of available rooting space required for adequate growth, nutrient absorption and structural and support. Although it’s a gross generalization, the average shade tree requires about 1,000 square feet of unimpeded surface – either covered by turf, mulch or groundcovers – in which to grow. In many locations, this much space isn’t provided.
The desired shape of tree – vase, cylindrical, rounded – also can play a role in RPRP. Some sites allow these forms to grow and develop well, and others don’t. The ones that require the largest available space are often limited on site.
The availability of sunlight is a key consideration when choosing tree species, as many require full sun exposure, while others are tolerant of, or actually prefer, shade. Species such as serviceberry, pagoda dogwood and redbud are often poorly sited as a result of this factor.
Tough sites and why
Unfortunately, many sites are compromised in one way or another. These are the most common tough sites.
Slopes: Gentle slopes are desirable; a 2 to 3 percent drop-off facilitates water movement away from buildings, yet generally allows for water movement downward through the water profile. When the degree of slope is 5 to 10 percent or greater, problems commonly arise in tree performance and landscape maintenance. At least four undesirable outcomes are associated with a severe slope:
- Decreased infiltration rate: On slopes, natural rainfall and irrigation water isn’t absorbed as quickly as at the top or bottom. Trees growing on the face of the slope often suffer from inadequate moisture in the root zone.
- Difficulty in mowing: When turf grass is grown on the slope, an increased chance exists for the mower to slip and slide, potentially striking the tree trunk or lower branches, causing damage.
- Difficulty in application of fertilizers and pesticides: After landscape maintenance products are applied on slopes, there’s a tendency for them to move downward, especially when granular products are used and/or moderate to severe rainfall occurs after application.
- Difficulty in mulch retention: Over time, mulch pieces tend to drift downward or sideways on slopes, moving away from installed landscape plants.
Hell strips: The thin, narrow and sometimes oddly shaped portions of the landscape often provide an inhospitable location for trees to grow well. The lack of available rooting and absorptive space is the main limiting influence. In northern climes, hell strips (also called tree lawns or devil strips, depending on your region) are often the space between the sidewalk and a street; in these situations, applied salt and sand for winter traction control causes damage and adds to the lack of rooting. In general, the siting of woody plants in these locations should be carefully considered.
Parking lots: Parking lots offer many of the same negative influences as hell strips. Salt, sand, radiating heat – along with the added occasional misfortune of cars, juvenile delinquents and shopping carts running into the trunk – are the major ones. The main differences between the two are that parking lots generally offer a bit more rooting space and a whole lot more interaction with pedestrians.
Middle of turf: Generally, trees and turf don’t mix. In most scenarios, turf requires more water and fertilizer than trees; in a mixed planting, if moderate amounts are applied to keep the turf thriving, excessive amounts of both are received by the trees. As well, in the midst of an island of turf, tree trunks are prone to mower blight, especially by youngsters and turf maintenance professionals who are in a hurry. The key message to deliver to them is to stop the movement of the mower before it reaches the tree, not after.
Next to concrete and rock: These materials have their place in the landscape, but it’s hard to overlook their negative impact on trees. They have a warming effect on the soil, don’t facilitate horizontal root growth as well as organic materials, provide no soil replenishment and are just so-so on moisture retention and weed suppression as compared with organic mulches and materials.
Compacted sites, high traffic spots: Settings where the soil particles are routinely compressed are tough locations for trees. Common locations for compaction of the soil are those that receive high traffic such as parks, campus grounds and shopping malls.
Adjacent to tough sites: Locations that are adjacent to the tough sites of compaction, hell strips, parking lots and other concrete surfaces may appear to be in good shape, or at least have the potential to produce healthy shoots and roots, however they are still adjoining and share a root zone. At best, sites adjacent to poor locations are half and half – half compromised and, hopefully, half conducive in terms of healthy soil, adequate space and overall growing conditions.
Close spacing: Often a scenario where the original property owner didn’t take size into account and planted way too many trees in way too small of a space. Close spacing is really an issue of trees competing for sun, nutrients and water.
Extremes of sunlight reflection: Commonly noticed when one side of a tree – the side that faces an office building – becomes blighted by excessive sunlight that can cause desiccation of the bark, stems and leaves.
Extreme shading: Opposite of sunlight reflection, absence of sunlight can cause etiolation, or a stretching for adequate light to support sturdy shoot growth. Growth that occurs in a heavily shaded location is usually thinner and weaker than when grown under ideal conditions.
So, what to do?
Identification and understanding is the first step in dealing with difficult sites; four other actions are next as making a difference in your landscape:
*First – it’s important to evaluate the status of the tree in question. Inspect for tree hazards and document defects that will influence future actions.
*Second – decide whether to keep the tree in the landscape or remove it. Consider the number of issues that weaken its structural integrity and limit the aesthetic value. If the tree doesn’t contribute toward the goals for the property, perhaps it shouldn’t remain on site.
*Third – if removal is chosen, possible replacement choices for each site can be contemplated. This is especially true for specimens that are not performing well due to an incompatibility with the size, sun, shade, soil and slope specifics of the site. For example, if a large tree is growing where a small one is called for, the potential replacements should be chosen from that group of options. In terms of possible selections for new specimens, local botanic gardens and arboretums are good places to gather information on suitability.
*Fourth – avoid planting in tough locations in the future. Seek advise on the microclimates where trees simply aren’t a good choice. In many scenarios, tall shrubs, groundcovers, perennials, native grasses and other landscape ornamentals are better options.
Often times, urban trees are vulnerable to pests and diseases because they are highly stressed. Stress can result from a variety of factors including the following:
-paved surfaces that interfere with water absorption
-restricted root spaces
-competition from dense layers of turf that surround a tree – Note: your trees should have layer of mulch surrounding diameter – call our Hometown Landscape division @ 301-490-5577 to assist with this recommendation.
Trees are also often times planted where they shouldn’t be or can be damaged from construction or heavy equipment. There is no single solution for managing all these issues; however, Hometown Tree Experts could assess this issue to ensure improving the overall health of your trees. Research has shown that proper care can increase the fine root density, helps to reduce water loss during dry and hot periods, and could increase the protective barrier of leaves. The trees are also greener and are better able to deal with stress. Call Hometown Tree Experts for solutions to your possible stress management @ 301-250-1033.
Slime spotted on trees is known as bacterial ooze. There are different types of bacterial ooze, and they’re not very well studied. Bacterial ooze can easily go unnoticed. At its most basic they form when a tree gets damaged and subsequently infected with bacteria. In certain circumstances if the bacteria is able to feed on the tree sap and nothing prevents it from multiplying it will eventually form this slime.
Trees, like all plants, have an immune system which should protect them from severe infections like this. Bacterial ooze happens when the tree is unable to heal a wound and prevent the bacteria from feeding on the sap. Bacterial oozes are often fatal; the ooze that forms will rot the tree as the bacteria ‘eats’ it, ultimately leading to the tree’s death.
Without knowing what bacteria is causing the problem, it’s difficult to know how contagious an ooze might be, but in most cases the ooze itself only forms when specific conditions occur on a tree so shouldn’t spread in a woodland. The bacteria involved are often present in a woodland anyway without causing any problems – the ooze forms when something goes wrong and the bacteria breeds out of control.
Bacterial oozes may be accompanied by other pathogens that further harm the tree. For example, slime flux is a type of bacterial ooze that is a mix of bacteria and yeast. It has quite a distinctive orange/yellow appearance. The yeast and bacteria ferment the tree sap, leading to an unpleasant smell and attracting insects to the ooze.
How we could help
If you spot a tree with bacterial ooze on it, we recommend that you call Hometown Tree Experts to assess. Hometown Tree Experts would assess your tree to ensure that it is indeed safe as the rot may be weakening your tree. This issue may be spreading bacterial oozes to other trees on property so would advise assessment to prevent. If you are able to provide good photos we would appreciate this photo being emailed to us as we’d love to see them!