Taking care of trees

Taking care of trees

Trees may not seem to require as much care as the plants in your garden, but they do require a little TLC to ensure they remain healthy. These basic guidelines will help you get started.

1. Mulching

Mulching holds in moisture, inhibits weeds, and encourages organisms that aerate and enrich the soil. It also protects against overheating in summer and freezing and thawing in winter. As time passes, it will also provide a little nourishment.

  • Leaf mould, bark chips, peanut hulls, and other useful mulches can be bought from garden centres or nurseries.
  • Apply in early fall or spring when soil is moist and warm, mulching eight to 10 centimetres (three to four inches) deep over the root area.

2. Fertilizing

Feeding is generally not needed for trees in their formative years. Later, small leaves or reduced growth may indicate a lack of nourishment

Make nutrients available to the tiny feeder roots by boring several holes in the soil around the perimetre of the root area (roughly the same spread as the branches) and filling them with fertilizer.

Use an organic fertilizer that provides its nutrients gradually over a period of a year or more.Trees planted in a lawn area may never need special fertilizing — the fertilizer applied to the lawn will supply all the nutrients the trees need as well. If the tree is planted beside a paved area, such as a driveway, you will need to concentrate the fertilizer (compost or a balanced organic fertilizer) on the side of the tree where you have access to the roots.

  1. Use a soil auger to bore holes 30 cm (12 in) deep, 45 to 60 cm (18-25 in) apart over root area.
  2. Funnel granular fertilizer into the holes. Fill with soil; tamp down.

3. Preventing a young tree from drying out

Established trees seldom need watering except in times of extreme drought. The foliage of young trees, however, may wilt; and evergreens, particularly conifers, may turn brown and scorched looking within a few weeks after planting. This condition may be caused by a lack of water or by drying winds.

To be sure young trees receive enough water, use a rain gauge.

  • Give a three-centimetre (one-inch) total of rain and watering per week.
  • Trees grown in containers must be watered regularly and thoroughly.
  • In some areas, this may be a necessary chore even in winter, especially if the containers are sheltered from the rain.
  • If a young tree is being scorched by drying wind, which in some climates can happen in winter, make a shelter of burlap or thick sheet plastic around it as tall as the tree.
  • To make the shelter, insert three or four stakes around the tree and secure the material to them.
  • Leave the top of this windbreak open to the rain.

4. Removing unwanted shoots

Good tree pruning principles call for the removal of all dead or straggly shoots.

Two types of shoots may develop on trees:

  1. Water shoots are upright, rapidly growing shoots that occur mainly on branches, but occasionally on the trunk. They happen most frequently following hard pruning and should be removed flush with the branch in late summer, before they spoil the shape of the tree.
  2. Side shoots sometimes arise from the trunk, even on mature trees. These grow outward, rather than upright, and increase in size more slowly. Cut them off flush in fall or winter.

Follow these basic steps to ensure your trees stay healthy.

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