Don’t take your tree’s life: Tree care tips from DNR

Trees planted in forests have it easy compared to trees growing in cities and towns. Community trees face many obstacles in their quest for healthy maturity. Unfortunately, many are inflicted by well-intentioned care givers. For that reason, here are some helpful tips on how to keep your tree healthy…

Avoid under-watering. Trees need water to re-grow root systems lost during transplanting, where up to 80 percent of roots are lost. A good rule of thumb is to supply extra water to a tree for the first three years following transplanting. Soak the soil with a slow trickle of water to the depth of the roots – from 1 to 3 feet – at least once a week; more often in hot, dry weather. This equals a minimum of about 5 gallons per inch of tree trunk diameter.

Don’t over-water. Tree roots need oxygen. If they are standing in water, they can actually “drown” for lack of oxygen.

Never ‘top’ a tree: Removing large tree limbs is called topping. This is ugly and can severely damage the tree or even kill it. When topped, a tree is much more susceptible to decay and insect attack. After topping, a tree regains its height in a very short time but the resulting growth is very dense and weakly attached. The tree will require more maintenance and can become a public safety hazard as branches start to fall apart.

Weed whips and lawn mowers: These motorized menaces can easily damage the thin bark of young trees and the water and nutrient transportation system necessary for tree survival, which is located just under the bark. Trees, unlike humans, do not heal wounds. Instead, they grow over wounds. Any damage to the bark damages the tree’s ability to access the resources necessary for growth, stressing or even killing it. Mulching around the tree to keep grass and weeds away from tender trunks.

Prune with care: Leaves produce the energy trees need for survival. Over-pruning reduces a tree’s ability to “make a living,” and can encourage insect or disease problems. While appropriate structural pruning can help a tree, make it a rule to never remove more than one-quarter of the live crown in a single year. Learn how to prune correctly at ‘never top a tree.

Other tree killing practices to add to your list of tree care ‘don’ts’ include:

  • Piling mulch against the trunk of the tree — it causes rot. Keep mulch at least 6” away from the trunk;
  • Staking too tightly — it can strangle your tree;
  • Leaving stakes and ties in place too long, which also can strangle your tree. Remove stakes and ties after the first season before the tree tries to grow over them; and
  • Misusing herbicides — avoid ‘weed & feed’ formulations around trees because they can slow its growth.

Trees that are well-cared for reward us with shade, better air quality, higher property values and beauty.

Learn more about tree care at: