Trees are like people, cars, and many other things in life, it is much better to do preventative maintenance than to wait for problems to occur. Trees are incredibly resilient and can take a lot of neglect and abuse before problems become obvious; however, once problems do become obvious it is very difficult and often too late to correct the problems—and you lose your trees. The old adage, “ Pay me now or pay me later” definitely applies to trees.
A proactive tree care program will help your trees be the best that they can be. Considering the benefits that we derive from our trees, quality tree care is an outstanding investment. Wayne Hitt, Certified Arborist at Moore Tree Care, a Lambert’s subsidiary, shares some of the proactive things we can do for our trees:
Proper watering. We Dallasites tend to overwater our trees. Trees do not like to dry out totally, but if they do, they will generally give us signs with wilting or drooping of leaves. On the other hand, overwatering is not as obvious, but is very devastating to trees. More new trees die from overwatering than from underwatering Overwatering fills the airspaces in the soil and actually suffocates the tree. Proper watering consists of giving the tree a good, deep watering and then allowing the soil to dry to a damp consistency before the next watering. The watering and drying cycle actually helps the aeration of our soils. Proper watering requires attention and monitoring rather than just setting the irrigation controller and forgetting it.
Avoid using plants that require a lot of water at the bases of trees. Trees don’t like to have plants planted right next to their base. Water-loving plants are even more detrimental to tree health for many of the reasons discussed in proper watering. In an effort to properly water the plants at the base of the tree, the tree is unintentionally overwatered. Many like the look of flowers planted around the base of the trees, but the trees would prefer that the flowers be planted elsewhere—minimal planting is best.
Proper and timely pruning. Deadwood should be pruned, as it develops to avoid having decay begin within the tree. Weak crotches and conflicting branches should be removed, as they develop to avoid future ice and wind damage. Weight reduction and selective thinning should be done gradually as the need arises rather than a doing a dramatic pruning every few years. Excessive pruning at any one time can be detrimental to the health of your tree; this is especially true of large mature trees. Avoid over-pruning your trees and stripping the inside limbs. Another concern in our area is Oakwilt Disease, a disease that hits mainly Red Oaks and Live Oaks. We don’t prune these trees between mid February to mid June when the beetle that transmits the disease is most active. If infected, transmission to other oaks in the immediate area can happen through the roots since trees have an extensive root system extending far wider than the canopy, quickly devastating a colony of oaks. Reactive treatment is available but it is best not to prune during this period.
Fertilization and Aeration. Our trees compete for nutrients with turf and other plant materials. In our maintained landscapes, we often remove the natural fertilization process that occurs in the forest. We haul off the leaves rather than letting them lie on the ground and compost. Additionally, our heavy clay soils have a real tendency to become compacted. This compaction can be caused by foot traffic or by our heavy watering practices. Supplemental fertilization and aeration are musts to keep trees healthy. The common method of injecting liquid fertilizers under high pressure is very effective. This provides fertilization and aeration at the same time.
Proper planting depth. It is incredible how many trees in our landscapes are planted too deeply. A recent industry survey found that as many as 80% of all trees planted by landscape professionals and nurseries are planted too deeply. A tree that is planted too deeply is literally handicapped and is much more likely to experience a wide array of health problems such as aphids, fungal leaf spots, etc. Traditionally, we continue to treat the symptoms of the problems rather than to correct the cause. Over the last five years, we have had remarkable success in utilizing a new tool called an “Airspade” to expose the root flares of thousands of trees with positive results. The process of uncovering the trees’ root flares is proving to be the most proactive thing we can do for them. The improvement in the health and appearance in these “treated” trees has been remarkable.
In closing, remember to be proactive in caring for your trees. If you have questions about your trees and are interested in what you can do to preserve the most important aspect of your garden, call Whitney Moore at 214-850-8350.