Care of Your Tree
Avoid fertilizing shade trees until late spring of the second year following planting. Fertilizers can “burn” roots or stimulate crown growth faster than the roots can supply water.
Stakes and guy wires should be used only if support is necessary. When using, avoid common problems by following these guidelines: If the main stem droops, find the best place for support ties by moving your hand up the trunk to locate the point above which the top can stand on its own. Place the support ties about 6″ above that point. Ties can be made many ways, but a loosely-fitted figure 8 tie made of polyethylene, cloth or webbed strap is easy to install, provides, good support and cushions the tree from rubbing against the stake. Using two ties will also minimize the chance of bark damage from rubbing. Regardless of the tie used, allow slack for sway. Avoid driving stakes through the root ball, or using stakes with flanges that will break roots when removed. Remove support ties after one or two years.
Watersprouts and Suckers
These “parasite” sprouts can occur at the base or inside the crown. They are rapidly growing, weakly attached, and upright. Usually they use more energy than they return to the tree. It is best to remove them as soon as possible when it is obvious they are vigorous sprouts.
Mulch is a young tree’s best friend. It holds down competing weeds or grass, retains soil moisture, prevents soil cracking that can damage new roots, protects the trunk from lawnmower damage and helps prevent soil compaction. Organic mulches such as wood chips or pine needles also contribute to better soil structure and aeration as they decompose. Avoid limestone rock and allow no mulch to touch the tree’s trunk or be piled higher than 2 to 3 inches.
How To Prune
Inspect the tree first and determine what needs to be pruned. Some examples of limbs which should be removed include the following: crowded, rubbing and narrow branch angles, double leaders, root suckers and water sprouts. When removing these branches, always prune back to the main trunk or the next largest branch being careful not to prune into the branch collar nor leave a pronounced stub. The branch collar is the swelled area near the base of the limb. Always make a clean cut to accelerate wound closure. Wound dressings do not prevent rot. Lopping shears should be used on branches smaller than 3/4″ in diameter. To avoid peeling bark, remove larger branches with a saw utilizing the 3 cut method. Incorrect pruning methods can cause costly problems. Discuss the maintenance of your trees with an arborist. When hiring a tree care company, seek out professionals who can provide references and proof of insurance.
Adequate water is essential at planting time. Place water hose at base of tree and allow water to slowly trickle until soil is saturated. The following watering schedule may be utilized with adjustments made during prolonged periods of rain or drought:
Initial watering after planting:
Root zones should be slow-soaked every seven days for four weeks.
Root zones should be slow-soaked every three weeks.
October, March & April:
Root zones should be slow-soaked every two weeks.
Root zones should be slow-soaked once a week.
Summer Watering Tips
During a drought, it is extremely important to water young trees on a regular basis. A good rule of thumb is a minimum of 1 inch per week using the slow drip method. If watering normally, you should water your tree 7-10 gallons at least 2-3 times per week. This should be increased for larger trees. Always apply a 3′-4′ circle of mulch on a newly planted tree. The mulch should cover the entire root zone to help retain moisture. Hardwood or cypress mulch generally lasts longer than pine mulch. Add mulch 2-3 times during the growing season, but keep mulch from piling around the trunk of your tree to prevent potential rot problems. By following these simple tips, your new trees should stay healthy and hearty during the harsh Houston summers.
Watering Trees in Drought