Trees not only bring beauty to the space around us, they also play a huge role in the environment, aiding life on Earth. Approximately 70,000 square kilometres of forests are cut down annually, that is between 3.5 billion and 7 billion trees lost every year!
Being the biggest plants on Earth, trees are responsible for creating large amounts of oxygen, they improve the quality of the air around us by absorbing carbon dioxide, they stabilise the soil in which they grow and are home to a wide variety of wildlife, including birds, insects, and critters. It is therefore very important to protect and maintain trees in our urban areas.
To ensure that the trees on your property remain healthy, you need to care for them consistently, inspecting their health on a regular basis and protecting them from any hazards or threats in the surrounding environment.
Give proper care to your tree through the next decade
Here is a 10-year maintenance plan for looking after the trees in your garden and around your property, in terms of watering, mulching, staking, cleaning, inspecting, and pruning.
Water is a necessity to all living things, and trees are no different. Newly planted trees need water in order to grow and survive, water supply is most criticalin the first three years. A newly planted tree requires proper watering in order to pack the soil, which removes air that can dry out the tree’s roots.
Sufficient watering also provides the root ball with enough moisture to keep the tree healthy and growing. On average, the amount of water needed will depend on the type of tree and the soil’s drainage ability. Faster draining soil will need to be watered more frequently than slower draining soils.
During the first three years, it is critical to water trees adequately during the growing season from late spring through into the autumn months. From year four onwards, you need not be as strict with watering, however, ensure that you provide your tree with enough water during any long periods of drought.
Mulch is a great way to give your tree’s roots the moisture and organic nutrients it needs to thrive. Mulch also reduces competition with other plants around the tree. Good mulch contains organic materials and can consist of fine wood chips, needles, leaves or bark.
The mulch should ring the tree’s base but never actually touch the tree- this ensure it is placed over the critical root zone. Good quality mulch also removes the need for any fertilisers.
During the first three years of growth, maintain the mulch at a level of no more than 4 inches spread out over the roots, ensuring it does not touch the tree. During the fourth year and onwards, your tree will enjoy a good level of mulch during the spring months. Be careful to avoid nitrogen fertilisers and only add fertilisers to the soil after carrying out a soil test to determine what the soil really needs.
Staking your newly planted tree may only be necessary if the root ball is unstable or the trunk starts bending and the tree needs help standing up straight. Make use of loosely-tied wide straps to support the tree and limit the number of straps you use to support your tree.
During years one to three only use stakes if you really need to. Often it is unnecessary to stake a new tree, but many tree owners stake their trees anyway.
If you need to stake your tree, check the straps during spring and autumn, ensuring they are loose around the tree to prevent damage to the trunk. Remove all the straps after the first or second year of life. Do not stake trees that are four years or older.
Clean the Root Collar
Look out for roots encircling the trunk at the root collar, as these can cause problems in terms of tree health and safety. Since the root collar is a transition zone at the ground line between the stem and the root, ensure your tree has been planted at the correct depth.
This will help in keeping the root collar clean, with no encircling roots. Avoid piling soil or mulch too close to the root collar, as this encourages the “strangler” roots that you do not want around your tree.
During years one through three of growth, proper planting and mulching can solve most root collar problems. During the first few growing years, when root collar problems are common to develop, be sure to keep the collar free from soil and mulch and avoid over fertilising the area. Inspect the root collar every four years and loosen the soil around the base with a hand trowel, until the first set of roots surfaces.
It is necessary to have the health of your tree inspected by a professional, since it can be a complicated science. There are a few tell-tale signs that will give you an indication of any health problems with your tree.
If the growth of your tree in the past year is less than previous years, your tree could be experiencing some health issues. Additionally, you should take note of any dead limbs, strange leaf or bark colours, and any other unusual characteristics as these can be the first signs of an unhealthy tree.
It is recommended that you avoid pruning a newly planted tree unless absolutely necessary. If it is necessary, only prune critical branches, which are those that are either broken or dead. If you prefer, you could also remove multiple leaders and leave your tree with only one, central stem. It is best to postpone pruning, as it can cause the tree a level of shock from the loss of leaves.
During the first three years, it is best to only prune critical branches since there is plenty of time for your tree to form later on in the growth cycle. You can perform some light pruning during years two and three.
Thereafter, prune your tree every three years to the desired form and function. Fruit trees can be pruned every one to three years, deciduous shade trees can be pruned every five years, and evergreens should only be pruned as necessary.