Basic Tree Care for the Home Yard

Your trees are the most important part of your home landscape. They provide beauty, shade, and enjoyment. They are expensive to remove when dead or damaged, and they are impossible to replace once they gain a little size. Learn to take care of your trees.

I have received a number of phone calls this spring reporting various stages of die back in the tops of a number of large, shade trees. Most of this is due to the two or three years of drought preceding the “wet” summer we are experiencing now. Many of our yard trees are growing on disturbed soils (disturbed when the house or community was built) and they tend to develop rather shallow root systems. Combine this with a prolonged period of dry weather and these trees become stressed. Stressed trees don’t accumulate a sufficient food supply during the summer and the following year they often lose branches, especially those in the top (the youngest) of the tree.

The sad part of this story is that there’s no way to replace the branches lost due to stress. They simply should be pruned out for safety purposes. This is often an expensive undertaking, especially if the tree is near the house. Hopefully the tree still looks ok after the dead branches have been pruned out, otherwise it may be best to have the entire tree removed.

Tree Companies don’t possess any special magic to fix these drought stress problems. They can look the tree over and make sure there’s are no other problems. Last week a homeowner called our office and reported most of his tree had turned brown and died. When he brought a sample to the office the problem turned out to be a common leaf fungus, oak leaf blister. The leaves on his tree had indeed turned brown, but his tree was by no means dead, or even dying. Brown leaves often means big trouble, but not always.

The two tips I have for taking care of your existing trees are (1) don’t do anything to disturb the trees root system, and (2) try and give them supplemental water during periods of summer drought.

A good root system is the key to maintaining your tree in good condition. Any major digging or soil disturbance that occurs beneath the canopy of your tree can cause serious problems. Removing soil, adding soil, or any type of trenching can hurt the tree. Compacting the soil by parking vehicles under the tree, or just excessive foot traffic around arid under the tree can hurt.

When your area has not received a significant rainfall within two weeks in summer it’s time to water your trees. Remember, you are applying water to the root system and the root system spreads out at least as far as the branches reach. You should set up a sprinkler, let it run for about 20 to 30 minutes, and then move it to another location under the tree. Continue moving the sprinkler in this way until every areas has received at least 60 minutes of watering. It takes a long time to properly water a large tree but it’s the most important thing you can do for your tree.

Take the time to look at your trees in the next week or two and reflect on their importance to your yard and landscape. Give thanks for the wonderful shade they provide and promise yourself that you will give them that drink of water they need during the next summer drought we experience. Your trees are a great natural resource, take care of them.

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