Caring for your trees and shrubs may seem like a fairly straightforward task, and one that almost any homeowner can handle. When it comes to trees and shrubs, you can plant them, water them, spray them, feed them, and even prune them—which all sound like simple tasks, but the devil is in the details. To help you, we put together a list of our top trusty tree care tips.
Choosing Your Tree
Most homeowners are fairly good at picking out the correct tree or shrub, but occasionally, they will choose the wrong plant for the location. These are probably the two biggest errors that homeowners make: they don’t think about the amount of sun that the plant will receive or the eventual size that the plant will grow to be. When shopping at the local nursery or garden center, plants usually come with a small tag that provides information on whether or not it needs sun and how big it will become. Shade-loving plants will scorch in the direct sun. Sun-loving plants, especially flowering plants, will not flower as profusely when planted in the shade. Many homeowners are anxious to have their landscape fill in as quickly as possible and have a tendency to over plant their landscape beds. In a few years, plants are crowding each other or are covering doors or windows on the house.
Planting Your Tree
Planting trees seems like a simple process. You dig a hole in the ground, place the plant in the hole, fill it back in with soil, and everything is done. But what else goes into the seemingly simple task of planting a tree or shrub? To start with, how big do you dig the hole? Many landscape professionals state that the hole should be twice as large as the width of container of tree ball. The depth should be at a point where the top of the container of tree ball is at or slightly higher than the ground level. If the plant was grown in a pot and the roots are growing in a circle, they should either be cut or gently coaxed out of their circular growth pattern. If not, the roots will continue to grow in a circular pattern and could eventually girdle or strangle the plant in several years.
Bonus Tree Care Tip: Some people think it is a good practice to replace the existing soil with a nice mix of pulverized top soil, peat moss, and other additives. This can result in the roots growing within the nice fertile soil and never pushing into the native soil. So, it is often best to use the soil that was removed when the hole was first dug.
If you need to apply an insect or disease control to a tree or shrub, after identifying the problem, you need to know where in its life cycle the disease or insect is currently in to be sure that whatever control application you use will work as intended. You also need to make sure the product you are using is labeled to control the correct pest and that you read and follow all label directions. Do not think that “if a little is good, a lot is better.” Following this adage may result in damage to the plant. Depending upon the severity of damage, the size of the plants, and amount of plants that have to be sprayed, it may be a better choice to leave this work to licensed, trained professionals.
Feeding Your Trees
Feeding your plants is another task that seems fairly easy to handle, but again, there are aspects of tree feeding that require some expertise as well as specialized equipment to supply the nutrients to the area that produces the best results—the roots. Foliar feeding is okay, but if the roots cannot handle the increased leaf growth, the plant can suffer. This is another practice that is best left to the professionals.
Pruning Your Trees
Finally, pruning a tree or shrub may seem like an easy task to handle and, in many cases, it is fairly easy (if you can keep both feet on the ground). Generally, you should prune flowering shrubs after they have flowered. Don’t wait until fall, as the blooms for next year are often set by the fall. The same is true with evergreens, such as yews or junipers.
Prune after they have produced their spring flush of growth.
Whenever you are pruning a limb on a tree, make the cut right after a shoot or other branch. Never make a cut in the middle of the branch. Most homeowners can handle the shearing of shrubs or minor pruning of trees. The hardest task is not the pruning work itself, but the clean-up. If you need to do drastic pruning, especially of large trees, hire a certified tree care company to do the work. It can be dangerous work if you don’t know what you are doing, and improper pruning can affect the overall health of the plant.
Of course, there are other considerations that may be required to keep your landscape healthy and attractive other than these basic tree maintenance tips. Hiring a professional to do the work for you may be your best – and safest – option.