How healthy are your trees? If you aren’t taking care of them properly, they may not be as healthy as they appear. Many trees will look healthy from the outside, but they are rotting from the inside, drying out from the bottom, or hosting infestations at the top.

You need to take care of your trees before they are sick. Preventative tree maintenance can help you there. Not only can it target problematic areas of the tree and ensure that they stay healthy, but it can help you to know your trees better so you can spot when something is wrong.

Preventative tree maintenance doesn’t have to take up a lot of time off your hands. Instead, it can be something that you do quickly and then get help for if the maintenance requires skills that you don’t have. So what can you do? Let’s take a look:

Make Sure Your Tree is Hydrated

  • Water is really a lifesaver
  • Too much watering can actually have the opposite impact
  • Establishing a routine is imperative

When should you water your trees? When you first plant your tree, you have to be careful about overwatering. You also have to be sure that you water in the correct places. In fact, it can take at least two years for your tree to be ready to handle water.

Watering the roots of your trees is important if you want your trees to be hydrated. Gardeners explains: “It’s a common misconception that a tree’s roots are a mirror image of the aboveground canopy. In reality, an established tree’s roots usually extend well beyond the edge of the canopy, or drip line. Although some anchor roots may reach deep into the soil, most tree roots are concentrated in the upper 12″ to 18″ of soil. When watering established trees, provide a deep, soaking irrigation to the entire area beneath the tree canopy and extending several feet beyond the drip line. Ideally, you should moisten the soil to a depth of 10″ each time you water. To prevent rot, don’t apply water to the area directly around the trunk.”

So make sure that you water regularly and look for signs that your tree isn’t hydrated: dying leaves, brittle branches, and low levels of production.

Consider Adding Mulch

Credit: tquist24

  • Not all trees will respond to mulch
  • There are different kinds of mulch
  • You may need to test your soil

Mulching plants and trees helps to keep your trees healthy. By preventatively spreading mulch around your tree, you will be able to protect the roots from different elements, provide nutrients, and keep everything protected. Make sure that the mulch you use is an organic material and that you keep it uniformly covered.

You can spread mulch around trees, shrubs, and other larger plants. To apply it, you want to pull the mulch away from the base of the tree, creating a donut shape of sorts with the tree in the middle. Do not pile up against the trunk because excessive mulch can actually cause decay and other problems.

According to Morton Arboretum, it will also provide insulation, reduces decomposition, keeps pests away, and prevents erosion.

You May Need To Stake Your Tree

Credit: Cuba Gallery

  • Staking can provide stability
  • Staking isn’t always a good idea
  • Can help keep your tree safe from you

So many people will argue about whether or not it is a good idea to stake a tree. Some people will do it right away when they plant a tree, but others decide not to do it. If you stake your tree when you plant it, you may be setting it up for success later in life, or you may be causing it to lose some of its strength.

Trunk movement can actually strengthen the tree and stimulate root growth. This type of maintenance is best left to the professionals who know what they are doing and can determine whether or not it is actually a good idea.

Staking as preventative maintenance can help when you have a young tree with a dense crown of leaves and a smaller root ball, according to Fine Gardening. When you stake a tree in this situation, it will be held motionless and allow the roots to catch up to the rest of the tree.

Finally, staking can offer protection that can help the tree to stay safe. If you mow your own lawn and it continually runs into the trunk, the stakes can prevent that mistake from happening again. In this instance, you want to use at least three stakes so that you can see them.

Clean The Root Collar

Credit: Cuba Gallery

  • Can help you to better understand what the base of your tree should look like
  • Prevents expedited root decay
  • Allows oxygen to move into the tree

The root collar is the flare at the bottom of the tree. It is an important place to keep clean from debris of any kind – from mulch and leaves to snow and ice build up.

Fine Gardening explains why the root collar should be clear: “When the root collar is buried by soil or mulch, moisture is trapped against the bark which encourages decay. Water saturation of the bark inhibits the movement of oxygen and carbon dioxide in and out of the phloem (inner bark). Over a period of years the lack of gas exchange can kill phloem cells and interfere with the downward movement of food (photosynthate) to the roots. This can stunt root growth and lead to decline of the plant (LoSasso, 2009). Loss of the protective barrier through decay also allows insects and disease to be introduced into the tree. A buried root collar may also lead to sprouting of adventitious roots from the trunk, which can become girdling roots that inhibit the proper function of the vascular system.”

Make sure to keep your tree’s root collar clear at all times.

If you are looking for a tree care professional in Southern Ontario, give Van Till Tree Care a call today at (705) 653-3777. We will help you to better understand your trees and advise you on particular issues such as green spots, pruning trouble, or soil problems. We can help you with many other issues that you might find among your trees – from the very top of the tree to the roots, no matter how old they are.

Header photo courtesy of Virginia State Parks on Flickr!

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