Arbor Day is a perfect time to examine the trees on your property and make sure they’re healthy. Whether you check for infestation, disease or the overall look of your land, taking stock of trees can benefit the value of your home and satisfy your pruning goals. Read below to discover the best ways to care for the trees on your property.
It’s important to remove tree branches that are broken, dead or diseased. Think of it like giving it a good haircut – you want it to look and feel fresh. The first thing is to cut back enough to let the right amount of light into the crown of your tree. Try to remove branches that cross one another, and always remember to cut back to a lateral branch (or branch that grows off the trunk).
While often thought of as an aesthetic tool, mulch does more than most people realize. Mulching helps protect trees, hold moisture and maintain constant soil temperature. The best method is to have a 2- to 4-inch layer of bark or wood chips around your tree that covers its roots, while leaving enough breathing room around the trunk base to prevent rot. Some people like to use the 3-3-3 rule: 3 inches of mulch in a 3 foot ring with 3 inches of space around the trunk.
While you have trees in your yard, did you plant them in the best location? If your trees are growing into utility lines, have dry foliage or have stunted growth, then they’re most likely improperly planted. When you go to plant a tree, think of potential canopy and root growth, not just its current dimensions. Plant trees at least 15 feet away from any buildings, and plant them in a one foot hole that’s at least three times wider than the tree’s root.
You can test your soil with a kit from your local home improvement store or gardening cooperative to see if your tree lacks needed nutrients. If your tree has direct sun and is covered with healthy soil, then it probably doesn’t need any fertilizer. Photosynthesis will be able to take care of the rest. Over-fertilizing can poising a tree’s root system or cause excessive growth. It’s hard to tell what your tree is lacking by just looking at it, as symptoms of over and under fertilizing are similar. Test the soil if your tree isn’t growing, has yellowing foliage, has dead branches or has salts on the surface of the soil.
Water is essential to the health of any tree. For younger trees, watering is important as energy is expended during growth. Some trees may need around 3 inches of rain a week, but, like fertilizing, it can be hard to tell if it has too much water. However, always remember that the soil should be moist. Insert a garden trowel 2 inches into the soil and create a small trench. See if the soil is moist. If it is, leave it be. If it is dry, give it some water.
If you are ever worried about the health of a tree, or if you have questions that need a bit more explaining, contact a local arborist. If you live in a larger city, finding one will be pretty easy. However, the International Society of Arboriculture has a great tool to help you locate one too: http://bit.ly/FindAnArborist.
The history of Arbor Day (in case you need a refresher)
Politician and journalist Julius Sterling Morton planted the seed to what is now known as Arbor Day back in 1872 in Nebraska. Morton knew the importance of trees, and when he became a member of Nebraska’s board of agriculture he dedicated a day to planting them. The state planted more than a million trees on its first Arbor Day, and the realization of the importance of trees spread throughout the state. By 1884, Nebraska made it a legal holiday. Soon every state celebrated Arbor Day, but the holiday gained great significance in 1970 when President Nixon declared the last Friday in April as National Arbor Day.