Caring for the trees in your yard can be a great way to spend time outside and learn about nature. The content below will help you learn about key tree care topics that you should become familiar with.
Each season brings with it a new set of tasks for a homeowner to checkoff when caring for trees. To the true Weekend Arborist, it becomes a labor of love.
If you are willing to get your hands a little dirty, each season gives you good reason to get out in your yard and commune with nature.
- Inspect each tree for winter damage, such as burn on conifers
- Frost cracks on the bark of trunks
- Monitor trees to ensure proper budding begins on schedule
- Re-mulch 4 inches deep and with a radius of approx. 3 feet
- If dry, begin watering – start planting some trees
- All trees do well when planted in the spring.
- For many conifers, spring is the far superior time to plant.
- Continue watering if conditions are dry or if the tree is less than one year old
- Monitor trees for signs of pests, particularly bugs
- Assess trees for damage after any summer thunderstorms
- Contrary to popular belief, it is best to not plant trees in the summer.
Because this is prime time for the tree to route its energy into root and branch growth, it can be a shocking time for it to be transplanted.
Much like if you were eating a large meal and abruptly had to go for a run.
Unless absolutely necessary (e.g. trimming off storm damage), refrain from pruning trees in the summer.
Pruning & Caring For The Trees In Your Yard
In many species, pruning during the growing season is a near-certain way to introduce serious disease. A few blooming trees, like Lilacs, can be pruned immediately after the bloom is completed (but for most trees, summer is a terrible time to prune).
- Continue watering if conditions are dry or if the tree is less than one year old.
- Water until the ground freezes.
- If the tree is deciduous until it loses its last leaf, whichever comes first.
- Mark dead branches and limbs prior to leaf drop.
- You want to do the pruning after dormancy, you need to mark dead limbs now.
- Plant trees. After spring, fall is the 2nd best time to plant.
- It’s best to plant at least 3 weeks prior to the ground freeze.
- In northern climates, consider spraying a special wax coating
- Your new conifers this may prevent Winterburn.
- Enjoy the fall colors (and rake) Harvest fruit Re-mulch if needed
- By far, this is far and away the best time to prune.
- Particularly toward the end of winter.
- Seems the tree has been sedated, you can do more to it without causing it harm.
- Inspect young conifers for Winterburn.
- If the burn appears to be a problem, consider wrapping in burlap.
- Research the different types of trees for ideas of what to plant in the spring!
- Pruning a tree is something that every homeowner needs to know how to do.
Performing good tree pruning not only enhances the beauty of the tree.
It aids in health by ensuring a strong structure as well as cutting away dead growth. There should always be a plan behind pruning.
Arbitrarily cutting branches off a tree is merely trimming a hedge. True pruning will help direct the growth of the tree in a way that creates the best looking and healthiest tree.
Pruning should be done with care. Much like surgery on a human, small cuts can be done with relatively little shock to the tree. While large cuts are like having a leg amputated.
A good rule of thumb in the industry is that you should never cut away more than 1/4 of the tree at one time.
We at the Weekend Arborist would prefer that ratio to be closer to 1/5.
Whatever the case, know that each branch probably grew where it did for a reason (often to compete with other branches for the sun).
Finally, don’t feel that you have to prune just for the sake of pruning. Many trees, especially conifers, do just fine with little or no pruning.
Many of the trees you buy at a nursery, especially larger ones, have already been pruned by nursery staff into a productive and strong structure.
Here are a few pruning tips:
1. Use proper equipment. If you need to make a 3/4 inch cut, get a lopper instead of a hand pruner.
If you are cutting a 2-inch branch get a hand saw or chain saw. Always use sharp, clean equipment.
2. Never cut more than 1/3 of the tree’s total growth, and preferably no more than 1/5.
3. Strategically cut branches that are growing too low, too upright, are giving the tree a lack of symmetry, or are protruding onto a walk or driveway.
A tree isn’t a hedge — don’t just give it a haircut. Carefully select entire branches to cut away.
4. Consider the tree’s photosynthesis. Keep in mind that many branches grow where they do for the tree to get more sun to its leaves.
If a branch is in a location where, upon its removal, the tree would lose significant sun hitting its leaves, considering leaving it alone.
5. Never “top” a tree (see picture). Topping a tree is a horrible practice and produces an ugly and unhealthy tree.
Topping occurs because the tree is growing into power lines.
This is the case, considering removing the tree and planting with something smaller.
6. Prune during the dormant season, late fall, or winter. The tree is in a similar state to a human being sedated during this winter.
If we were having a limb cut off, I think we would all prefer to be in a sedated state, wouldn’t we?
While some trees can withstand pruning in the growing season, others like oaks should never be cut between April and August, it will probably introduce disease.
On flowering trees, pruning can occur immediately following the flowering season (lilacs are a good example).
But as a general rule, pruning in the January thru March timeframe, just before spring, is the best overall time to prune.
7. Make any cuts just above the branch collar. Never cut into the branch collar, as it will scar the tree and affect the tree’s overall health.
Never lop off a branch in the middle strategically cut off the entire branch instead.
8. Don’t use pruning paint. Pruning paint was developed out of the belief that applying it similarly to ointment on a flesh wound, would prevent diseases from attacking the cut.
We now know that sealing a tree wound actually increases the odds of it becoming infected.
Check with your nursery or extension office about exceptions.
(such as if you must prune an Oak tree between April – August).
Clean your instruments. Taking another page out of the modern medicine book, it is a good idea to clean pruning tools in between trees. Hot soapy water will do.
This will prevent the spread of infections that you may have inadvertently transferred to the tool while pruning.
Oaks and Elms are two types of trees that have deadly diseases that can enter through open wounds.
Most homeowners and landowners who we’ve met have an abundance of Saturday-morning confidence for weekend projects.
You know the feeling:
Wake up on Saturday morning with a cup of coffee and the newspaper. You figure it will be a good morning to cut down that Poplar tree.
By Sunday evening, you have the pit in your stomach knowing that the project will need to wait. Half-completed, until the following weekend.
Tree care generally is something that offers the Weekend Arborist a chance to get his or her hands dirty.
Many of the tasks are forgiving that is, a small mistake will not ruin the entire project. Pruning an extra branch usually won’t kill the tree, and watering the tree too much just means to need to back off on the next couple of waterings.
Other projects, however, present either serious consequences to the tree if done wrong.
The potential for bodily harm, or both. Below of the tasks that we say leave to the pros.
Write the check, and know that it will be done by people with the experience and tools to do it right and do it safely.
Anything Requiring Climbing in the Tree:
If your feet have to leave the ground in order to prune or cut a branch, consider having the pros do it.
The chances are you don’t have the right equipment. Remember it only takes a split second for a serious accident to occur.
Projects Requiring Major Equipment Purchases:
Purchasing new tree care equipment hardly makes sense for the Weekend Arborist.
While we recommend any Weekend Arborist have some basics, such as pruners, loppers, and maybe a smallish chain saw.
Many projects require tools that may cost upwards of $200 and that you would only really use every few years.
Consider renting the equipment instead of buying, or calling the tree care company.
Any Tree Felling Where There is not an Abundance of Space:
If you need to cut down a 20-foot-tall tree in your yard. And the nearest structure power line or other trees are 35 feet away.
You know that you can safely do it without children/others around, we’re not going to stop you.
However, if you need to fell a tree in an area where hazards are around and you only have one shot to do it right, call the experts.
No matter how confident you are. We’ve seen too many cases of the tree doing a final twist and roll just before falling.
Going down exactly in the direction that you needed it not to. Usually on your house or a power line.
Application of Dangerous Chemicals:
The pesticides and herbicides used for tree problems are no different than those used in agricultural areas. Where water can be polluted and the frogs start growing five legs.
You might just want to watch the birds in your trees.
Unless you have invested in standard safety equipment for the application, and you know how to use it properly.
We would recommend hiring this one out to the experts. Do this wrong and you could kill the entire tree.