Taking care of your trees is important for many reasons. It keeps them healthy, prevents damage to your home, and gives your home a beautiful landscape. Even an inexperienced landscaper can keep trees safe, healthy, and beautiful by following these five steps for good tree maintenance.
Good Tree Maintenance Starts with Planting
Many problems with trees can be avoided by making good decisions during planting. When choosing a location, make sure you account for the mature size of any tree you plant.
In general, the tree’s roots will reach about as far as its limbs, so make sure they won’t interfere with sidewalks, driveways, or buried utilities. Also, choose native species that are adapted to your climate. They will require less care and fewer waterings after they’re established.
Trim Trees Correctly
Proper techniques for tree trimming are essential for healthy, beautiful trees. Remove dead, damaged, or broken limbs as soon as possible. The longer they remain on the tree, the more damage they can cause.
For routine pruning, trim during the correct time of year for your particular species of tree. Start your cut on the bottom of the limb, then move to the top. This will prevent shearing as the limb breaks. Make sure your cuts are clean and avoid the “collar” area where the limb joins the trunk.
Protect Tree Trunks
The bark of a tree is critical to its ability to transport water and nutrients to the upper branches. Many trees are damaged by mowers and trimmers, so tend the grass carefully around the base of your trees. Even small scuffs can lead to insect or disease problems.
If you use wire or plastic sleeves to protect the tree, make sure that it can’t be moved by the wind and that it isn’t too small for the tree. A rolled piece of chicken wire or hardware cloth staked into the ground is a better option. This also helps prevent pets and wildlife from damaging young trees.
Mulch for Better Tree Maintenance
Fresh mulch helps the ground retain moisture and gives the landscape a more finished look. It also creates space between the mower and the trunk that helps protect the tree.
However, a thick layer of mulch piled against the trunk is destructive. It harbors insects that can bore into the bark, injuring, or even killing the tree. Mulch also damages the bark as it decomposes. Keep the mulch at least 12-16″ away from the trunk, spreading a thicker layer of mulch further out from the tree.
Monitor for Insects
We cannot eliminate all insects, but we can manage the most troublesome ones. Know which insects are a problem and which are harmless. For example, the eastern tent caterpillar builds unsightly cocoons each year, but they’re not around for very long and rarely do lasting damage.
On the other hand, major pests, like the emerald ash borer, can be an immediate threat to the tree. If you use pesticides to control insects on your trees, follow proper techniques for protecting bees and other pollinators.
Good tree maintenance requires some basic knowledge of the species in your yard. Tree care is mostly a matter of meeting their basic needs and taking proper steps to keep them healthy.