Caring For Young Trees From The Beginning
The first five years are critical for long-term tree health and a well-established tree can mean substantially lower maintenance costs in the future. Here are some fundamentals to help you get your new tree off to a good start.
Right tree, right place
The soil texture, depth, and drainage on your property are important factors in selecting the right tree species, as are sun and moisture requirements. Find out the characteristics of the species you’re considering, and choose a location with the size and shape of the fully-grown tree in mind. New trees are an investment — your arborist can guide your decisions as to species and site placement.
When to plant
The best time to plant trees and shrubs is during their dormant period, so schedule your new plantings before buds begin to open in early spring or after leaves drop in late autumn. Under cool conditions, trees have a chance to establish roots before rain and warmer temperatures encourage shoot growth.
Many tree problems and failures can be attributed to improper planting. Most commonly, the tree is either planted too deep or the trunk is covered too high with soil or mulch. If the root flare (where the trunk meets the root system) is covered, it can prevent proper root formation and constantly moist trunk tissue makes the tree susceptible to pathogens and insects.
Pruning a young tree will affect its shape, structure, and life span. Expert and early pruning can eliminate problems before they occur. For example, pruning can reduce competing leaders so that one leader may become dominant. A tree with a dominant central leader is more structurally sound, and less likely to need costly and unsightly pruning as it matures.
Proper watering, feeding, and mulching
- Watering. For their first five years — but especially during their first two — young trees require regular and deep watering to encourage the growth of a robust underground root system. Build a berm with the leftover planting soil to create a watering reservoir around the tree. Don’t rely on lawn irrigation or light sprinkling, since that will only moisten a few inches of topsoil and thus encourage weak surface roots. And the bigger the tree is when it’s planted, the more water it will require.
- Mulching. After planting and sufficiently watering your tree, mulching it is recommended to suppress weeds, regulate soil temperature and help keep the soil moist in between rainfalls and watering. Make sure that mulch covers the root system but is not in contact with the trunk.
- Fertilization. With the advice of your arborist, you can support your newly-planted and young trees with supplements and nutrient treatments such as SavATree’s ArborKelp® — a natural seaweed based biostimulant formulated specifically to promote root growth and increase tolerance to transplant stress.
Taking early and appropriate steps will help establish your new tree and keep it healthy. As with humans, an ounce of prevention…