Basic Tree Care & Maintenance

Starting your tree out right- Mulching: Mulch is an organic product that is spread around the base of the tree, over the area above its root zone. Mulch helps keep roots cool in summer and warm in winter. It keeps weeds down and helps hold moisture. A “moat” of mulch, about 2-3” deep, also helps protect against lawn mover and weed whipper injuries-the nicks and cuts caused by mowing too close to the trunk. Studies have shown that wood-chip mulch can nearly double tree growth during the first few years after planting, and fertilizes the tree as the mulch breaks down. 

Mulching Tips:

  • Mulch should be spread in a circle as far around the base of a young tree as possible, but at the very least, to two to three feet.
  • Mulch should spread out to resemble a saucer or donut (see picture above), not a mound or volcano, as is a common mistake. The donut shape will hold rainwater and distribute it to a tree’s roots more effectively.
  • It is very important to keep mulch from piling up around a tree’s trunk because that can lead to serious damage. A mound of mulch (or soil) that comes in contact with a trunk will keep it unusually moist, which can cause the bark to rot. That, in turn, makes a tree vulnerable to disease and insect problems.

Watering: Water is essential for tree health and the critical factor for tree survival after planting. It is essential to make sure trees have enough water. Newly transplanted or young trees are especially at risk during times of drought because their root systems are smaller. However, care must be taken not to over-water. It is not necessary to water your tree every day. Once a week deep waterings are preferable. Check the soil to make sure watering is necessary and use common sense. If the ground is moist, don’t water. 

Watering Tips:

  • Water your tree for the first three years after planting.  Give your tree 15 gallons of water, once a week, from May 1 to October 31.
  • Set a hose to a slow trickle under the tree’s dripline (from trunk to furthest extending branches).  Or, use a soaker hose, which can water a greater area of the root zone and does not need to be moved as often.
  • You can also water each new tree with 15 gallons of water each week using a 5-gallon bucket.   Slowly pour three full buckets at the base of each tree once per week.
  • Avoid short, frequent watering of trees because this usually does not penetrate deep enough into the soil, and only encourages roots to grow toward the surface.
  • Watering should soak the top foot of soil.

Flowers Surrounding Trees: Flowers, just like grass, compete with trees for water and nutrients. Do not plant flowers under the dripline of trees. If limited gardening space requires planting near trees, try to plant in such a way as to minimize root damage. Do not build raised beds around trees. This will cause the root system to suffer and will ultimately shorten the life of the tree. Pruning: Improper pruning can severely damage trees. It is best to consult with a certified arborist before pruning. If this is a tree planted with KIB, please contact Molly Wilson before pruning. Topping is the severe cutting back of limbs to create stubs within the tree’s crown-this mutilates and destroys trees.Topping is very unhealthy and dangerous to trees, so don’t do it! Staking It is best to not stake trees if possible. Trees become stronger by adapting to the forces of the wind. Staking: is only necessary for trees that are severely leaning.  

Other ways to help your trees: 

  • Let your tree be natural.  No fertilizer, no ropes, no wires, no paint, etc.
  • Avoid damaging the bark of the tree with mowers and string trimmers.