Earth-Wise Guide to Tree Care – Nurturing Your Trees

cedar-elmThis is the third-part in a four-part series on the Earth-Wise Guide to Tree Care. In this blog post, we’ll focus on nurturing your trees. Trees, like any other living thing, need nurturing. This is especially true when they are stressed.  The effects of stress are not usually seen for years so you should take care of your trees early and often.

Water Wisely

The best thing you can do to nurture your trees is to water them properly. For established but distressed trees, you should water at least once every two weeks in dry periods during the growing season. During winter, however, you should water only once a month and that’s if there is no significant rainfall.  When watering trees, they should be watered at least to the dripline.  Large, mature trees need to be watered in the root zone because many of their water-absorbing roots extend beyond the dripline.

How Much Water Do Trees Need

As a general rule, trees need 5-10 gallons of water per inch of diameter. You can use the lower end of the scale for healthy trees. If trees are distressed, water on the upper end of the scale. The excess water will help them heal. You will also use the upper end for trees that are covered in turf or groundcover.

If the water is standing or running off, you are probably watering too much or too quickly. It’s best to use mulch or small berms on slopes, heavy soils (clays), and compacted soils to assure water soaks in and does not run off onto paved surfaces.  On the day after you water your trees, you should use a trowel or a screwdriver to check soil moisture depth. If the soil is moist to 4 or 5 inches deep, then you’ve watered enough.

How Long Should You Water Your Trees

Watering slowly and deeply ensures that water percolates well below the soil surface to the tree roots. You can accomplish slower water application rates by hand-watering, using a donut-shaped sprinkler, spray nozzle or soaker hose. You can also fill 5-gallon buckets or water bottles with a few ¼ inch holes drilled in the bottom. You should place them over the roots of the tree or near the dripline. It’s always a good idea to use a timer so you don’t forget you’re watering your trees.

Compost and Mulch

Besides proper watering, the best thing you can do to nurture your trees is to apply mulch over their root systems. You should apply compost in both the spring and the fall. Place ½ inch to the edge of the tree canopy. Keep compost 4-5 inches away from the base of your trees. You should always apply compost before applying mulch. When you apply mulch, use as much as needed to maintain a pile of 3-4 inches deep. Keep the mulch 4-5 inches away from the base of the tree.

The Benefits of Compost and Mulch

There are many benefits of compost and mulch for the nurturing of your trees. Here are a few:

  • They insulate the soil and roots from extreme temperatures.
  • They slow soil moisture evaporation, which extends the amount of time before watering.
  • Compost and mulch mimic the forest floor. The decomposition of the organic matter in the mulch as well as any existing compost will release nutrients that become available to be absorbed by the roots.
  • They reduce weed and grass competition. Turf can conflict with the presence of trees because they compete for the same resources.
  • Compost and mulch provide a buffer between the turf and tree to help protect the trunk and surface roots from mower and equipment damage. Wounds at the base of the trees can cause lifelong problems.

As you can see, nurturing your trees is vital to keep them healthy over time. You can just leave the trees alone. If you have questions about anything written in this article, feel free to call us at 512-341-8888. We’re happy to help.