Top Tips for Spring Tree Care

flowering tree

As we enter into spring and embark on the warm summer months, many homeowners are left grappling with caring for their trees as the seasons change. Questions swirl around the tree-loving homeowner’s mind like: How do I care for my trees as they come out of dormancy? How do I help my trees stay healthy in the spring? These questions and so many others are about to be demystified, so you can feel confident that your trees are going to thrive as they move into spring as well as the rest of the year.

The 1,2,3’s of Caring for Trees This Spring & Year-Round

  • Understand Dormancy and How It Works – Trees have an extremely resilient nature and an inner intelligence that allows them to go dormant during bitter cold periods of winter and, like clockwork, wake up when spring finally brings warmer temps. Scientists determined that trees actually block communication between the cells inside the bud during winter, preventing growth cells from developing.
Sycamore Tree Winter
  • Inspect Your Trees and Shrubs – Once the snow begins to melt, and the temperatures slowly begin to climb, it’s a good time to take a venture outdoors and examine the state of your trees and shrubs. During a harsh winter, the conditions can have an impact on the well being of your trees and shrubbery. Look for injuries from freezing temperatures that may have caused bark to split or browning on evergreens from winter burn. As we enter spring, it’s the essential time to treat any of these issues and prevent them from causing further damage.
  • Prune Away Dead Branches – As we enter spring, it’s time to grab the pruning shears and clear away the dead branches. The general rule of thumb is to prune spring flowering trees and shrubs after they flower in the spring. The flower buds from those plants were set in fall, so shearing or shaping of these plants in the spring will result in fewer flowers. Individual limbs can be removed if they are crossing another limb, are damaged, or if you want to improve the shape of the plant. It’s also highly recommended to prune at this time to improve airflow and light penetration.
prune trees
  • Break Out the Mulch – Your mulching efforts at the start of spring will help retain moisture, even if the temperatures drop to extreme levels as they can do during the unpredictable spring. Mulching has many other benefits, including weed prevention and lessening the likelihood of attacks from borers, ants, and beetles. Three inches of mulch is all you need and be sure to avoid piling mulch up on the trunks of trees to form “mulch volcanoes.”
  • The Time to Water Is Now – Step up your tree watering game as you enter spring and gear up for summer with these best practices – water deeply but infrequently, don’t over water, and water during periods of drought. Also monitor moisture levels, making sure your trees don’t dry out your trees. This is an excellent time to check on the sprinkler system too, ensuring they are working properly, and that the coverage is accurate.
watering tree

Caring for trees and shrubs requires a year-round effort. As we exit the cold months and step into spring, we can set our trees up to thrive by following a few easy instructions. And, if you need some more help with any aspect of your arbor or lawn care, Spring-Green has a team of professionals ready to mobilize and assist you with all your needs.

Contact Your Spring-Green Specialist Today!

How Winter Mulch Can Protect Your Garden This Season!

winter mulch

Adding mulch around garden and landscape plants is a great idea as it will help protect the roots of overwintering perennials from the ravages of winter temperatures.  When temperatures fluctuate during the winter, mulch helps to keep soil temperature around more steady than uncovered soil. Even though it is winter, plants still need moisture, especially evergreen plants like yews, junipers, arborvitae and many broad-leafed evergreen plants still require water.

Common Mulch to Use in the Winter

When bare soil freezes, the moisture in the frozen soil is less available to the plant, which can lead to winter desiccation.  Mulch comes in many forms, from commercially packaged bags to bales of straw or pine needles to homemade compost.

Here are a few of the most common types of mulch:

Shredded Bark

This is a very common type of mulch that is used across the U.S.  Depending on your point of view, shredded bark is good as it breaks down quickly, helping to feed the soil microorganisms.  Since it breaks down quickly, it should be replenished on an annual basis.  Don’t pile this mulch high upon the base of trees to create what are called “mulch volcanoes”. The mulch should not exceed about 3 inches in depth.  It is also good to purchase composted shredded bark as it will provide more nutrients to your plants.

Straw and Pine Straw

Most homeowners don’t use regular straw as mulch around their home as a decorative mulch.  It usually has a more utilitarian use in vegetable gardens.  When purchasing bales of straw, inquire about weed seeds.  Oat straw has a good number of other weed seeds embedded in the bales, which can lead to future problems.

Pine Straw is probably the most popular mulch used in the many southern states.  It is lighter than shredded mulch and easier to spread. It does tend to interlock as it decomposes, so it is a good choice for sloped areas. As with any other mulch, it does have to be replenished on a regular basis.


Compost is darker in color, similar in color to many humus type soils, so it can help to enhance the color of many plants in the landscape. It is also the mulch that breaks down faster compared to others.  Since it is already in the composted stage of decaying, it is the best mulch for the health of your plants as it adds to the natural soil food web that exists in the soil. Since it breaks down quickly, it must be refreshed every year.

If you have the space, you can make your own compost, but most homeowners purchase truckloads of it, depending on the size of their landscape beds. It can be a back-breaking task to spread all that compost.

Pine or Cedar Bark Chips

Pine or cedar bark chips provide the least amount of organic content to the soil, mainly since they take a long time to break down.  They are also not a good choice for sloped areas as they are light weight and tend to float away during heavy rain storms. It has also been said that the natural waxes that cover the bark chips will wash over and can cover the soil, repealing water in the long term.

Even though it is the end of the growing season, adding mulch to landscape beds is still possible until the ground begins to freeze and the snow covers the ground. If you have any questions about caring for your lawn and landscape in the winter, call on your neighborhood lawn care professional at Spring-Green.

Mulching Leaves: Why Mowing Is Better Than Raking

Leaves Covering a Backyard

Let me start this post with a fact: I hate raking leaves.

Being a homeowner with several large trees on my property and in neighboring properties, I always looked upon fall with anger and loathing as I knew I had to rake up all those leaves that came dancing down this time of year. The amount is consistently extensive… one day I wake up to find a sea of leaves where my once beautiful lawn resided! I always tell people that I have the world’s largest Silver Maple. Its diameter is 4 feet! If I’m being realistic, it most likely is NOT the world’s largest… but we don’t have to tell anyone else that!

The Silver Maple is truly huge and beautiful and provides excellent shade during the summer. In the fall, every one of those beautiful shade-casting leaves drops onto my lawn causing such a mess. I used to spend hours raking up all the leaves, putting them in plastic bags so that they could be shipped off to the local landfill. As time went on, laws changed and I had to put the leaves in a special paper bag so that the yard waste could be taken to the local recycling center. Not only did I have to buy special bags, but each bag had to have a sticker attached to it and each sticker cost about $1.75. I would easily fill thirty or forty of the special yard waste bags each fall. Such an expense!

Then, about five years ago, I attended a turf conference that changed my fall yard duties forever! The speaking professor said that there was really no reason to rake up all those leaves. Just mulch them up with your mower and they will decompose over the winter. His advice about mulching leaves was one of those AH-HA moments we occasionally have in our life, and I felt a renewed desire to like fall again.

I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical about mulching leaves, especially when the layer of mulched leaves in certain sections of my lawn reached about 6 inches in depth. I thought that the grass underneath would be suffocated by the thick layer of leaves, but I figured the professor would not lead me astray and waited to see what happened to my beautiful lawn the following spring.

I live in the Chicagoland area, and winters can be brutal to say the least. It can be bone-chilling cold, it can be cloudy for weeks at a time, and the snow can range in depth from a couple of inches to several feet. It may not seem like the best weather to encourage the decomposition of organic matter. I was pleasantly surprised the following spring to see that the layers of leaves were gone and my lawn looked fine. In fact it seemed greener and grew better the following year!

Hopefully, you figured out the lesson here – you don’t have to rake your leaves, just mulch them. Of course, there are always exceptions. If a tree or shrub on your property suffered from a leaf disease, it is advisable to rake up and dispose of those leaves. Diseases like apple scab, powdery mildew, bacterial leaf scorch and tar spot on maples will leave behind spores on the leaves that can re-infect your trees if they are left on the lawn.
Fall is a great time of year and you should enjoy it, not spend every weekend raking leaves.

Mulching leaves is pretty easy, but there are other projects you should leave to the professionals for a healthy, weed-free lawn. Ready to get started with your customized lawn care plan? Talk to your local franchise owner today!