The best way to care for a tree is to prevent tree wounds in the first place. Proper planting of your trees and regular maintenance are the keys to keeping trees safe and healthy. In this article, we’ll discuss ways to prevent and care for tree wounds.
Proper Selection and Planting
Possibly the most important thing you can do to prevent tree wounds is to pick the right tree to plant. Then, you should place it in the best possible place. Finally, plant it carefully and expertly. If you need any help with any of this, Austin Tree Service can provide it. We offer tree planting services for our customers.
You should look at the site carefully and completely before you plant your tree to prevent serious tree wounds later. Make sure the space is large enough to accommodate the tree’s crown and roots. At the nursery, you should select trees with well-developed crowns and no wounds on the trunk and branches. Trees pruned heavily in the nursery or seriously wounded in handling may have problems later. You may want to steer clear of those.
Mulching is an important maintenance practice for trees. If you properly apply the mulch, you will increase the tree’s growth rate, prevent basal damage, and conserve soil moisture. Organic mulch should be applied around the tree to a depth of two to four inches. You will want to monitor your mulched areas during the winter, checking for rodent activity. It’s a wise idea to renew the mulch as needed to keep it at a good depth.
What should you use for mulching materials? Well, wood chips, bark or some other natural material is good. You should avoid using rocks or plastic sheeting. Rocks cause soil compaction and plastic sheeting will suffocate your root systems. Woven weed barrier fabric can be effective at reducing weed competition. It also allows for moisture and oxygen to enter the soil. It does not, however, add organic matter to the soil or reduce compaction like organic mulch does. Mulch should be spread about a foot or more away from the base of the tree in every direction. When mulching established trees, you can put it directly on the grass.
Watering trees can prevent tree wounds because water is critical to trees. Of course, too much moisture can cause tree damage as well so you have to strike a balance and get it just right. Newly planted trees need to be watered weekly to an inch in the absence of rainfall. Established trees can go about two weeks. Remember – this is in addition to any water you provide the grass on your lawn. For example, a new tree with grass surrounding it may need two inches of water weekly. If you water more than that, you could inhibit the soil’s own oxygen, smother the roots and reduce their depth.
Trees should be fertilized only when they need it. If their growth is adequate and steady, the foliage on the tree appears healthy and there has been no major disturbance around the tree, then no fertilization is needed. When you do need to fertilize, use a slow release, balanced, granular fertilizer that you distribute over the tree’s entire root zone. This will protect against tree wounds.
When pruning, it is important to make final cuts at the proper location. You should avoid over-pruning the trees. Pruning is recommended annually or as-needed. If you have tree wounds, you don’t want to wait to prune them or the tree can suffer tremendously. A good rule of thumb is to not prune more than ¼ of a tree’s foliage in a given year. It’s good to prune smaller branches because you get smaller tree wounds. The smaller tree wounds are easier to care for and close.
Wound treatment should be confined to only the removal of loose bark or wood. You can leave the tree wound exposed to begin the natural process of callus formation. This will cause the wound to heal and seal over. Once upon a time, it was recommended to ‘scribe’ the tree. This meant shaping the wound in an elliptical. It was thought that this would help water and nutrients flow around the wounded area. It’s no longer recommended since it only makes wounds larger and does not improve sap flow. Wound dressings are also not recommended since they can actually increase decay.
So, the best treatment is pruning if the wound is big enough. If it’s not that big, then let nature take its course and the tree will help repair itself. If you have question on tree wounds, please contact us at Austin Tree Service. We can be reached at 512-341-8888.