Have you added a tree to your landscape recently? If so, there are some things to know that will help the tree live a long, healthy life.
Once planted, the kind of care the tree gets will determine whether it thrives. A good rule of thumb: Consider your tree a new transplant for one year for each inch in truck diameter.
Let's address some tree care basics: water, mulch, pruning, trunk wrap, staking and fertilization.
Proper watering is critical to the health of a tree and often means the difference between success and failure.
With our sandy soil, frequent watering at a lower volume is best. The ideal watering system is drip irrigation. If that isn't possible, try hand-watering. Continue watering to supplement rainfall as long as the tree is considered a new transplant.
Newly planted trees benefit from mulching, which preserves moisture and moderates soil temperature. The mulch also keeps lawn mowers and weed trimmers away from the trunk.
It is recommended that mulch be 2 to 4 inches deep in a bed with a 2-foot radius. Make sure the mulch is not touching the trunk as this encourages a moist environment and makes the tree more susceptible to insects and diseases.
Pruning is important to the health of a tree. Tags left on trees can girdle a branch and lead to the tree's decline.
Make sure all dead, diseased and broken limbs and twigs are removed. A healthy new tree should not require pruning. Structural pruning begins once the tree is established.
Once common, trunk wrapping is now considered unnecessary. If rodent damage is a potential problem, install a mesh screen around the trunk.
Staking should be avoided unless necessary. When staking, keep in mind that the truck will become stronger if the top of the tree is free to move with the wind.
Most homeowner-planted trees are adequately staked using the one- or two-stake method. Drive a 2- by 2-inch stake into the ground at a 45-degree angle facing into the prevailing winds. Fasten the stake to the trunk about 8 to 10 inches above the ground. Use rubber strapping so the bark is not damaged.
Staking should be inspected regularly to ensure the truck is not being girdled and it should be removed after one year.
Newly planted trees should not be fertilized within the first year or two unless the soil is nutritionally poor. A small amount of slow-release fertilizer can be put in the root zone. Most trees will survive with little or no supplemental fertilizer.