Once you’ve planted your trees, it’s time to water, fertilize, and prune them as needed. Even the most healthy trees are at risk of problems, but there are several assessments you can make to determine the health of your trees and maintain them for years to come.
Thankfully, maintaining the health of your trees is as easy as following a few simple steps and understanding the signs of disease. Here’s what you can do to take the well being of your trees and property to the next level
Central leaders provide strength and stability to a tree’s structure and should be pruned to have a single leader to maintain an upright appearance. Additional leaders may cause a tree to split, expediting lasting wounds and potential insect infiltration.
There are, however, some tree varieties that can survive and even thrive with multiple leaders. Species include nectarine, peach, plum, cherry, and types that contain numerous trunks. Unique species such as bonsais and topiaries can also be pruned to take on growth patterns, unlike more traditional landscape trees.
No matter the species, healthy trees will produce new growth every year on their branches and trunks. To inspect a year’s progress, measure the distance between last year’s and the current season’s buds. Different varieties maintain different levels of growth, so it’s essential to check online and with your local garden center to understand the specifications of your trees.
Growth rings on a tree’s trunk can also tell you how much growth has happened over the past year, but determining this and the tree’s age requires cutting it down to reveal the rings. However, healthy trees tend to expand in width every year, and the slightest bit of growth can be a positive indicator of health. To check for yourself, take out a tape measure and start regularly measuring the circumference of your trees.
A tree’s roots are less vulnerable than its branches, trunk, or leaves, but they can still experience illness. Although mostly underground, roots are still susceptible to disease, poor soil compaction, and nearby construction or infrastructure damage.
Digging up roots to check their health isn’t recommended, so look out for branches sprouting under the tree that are either injured, broken apart, or damaged.
Pruning dead and broken branches as soon as possible improves the health of your trees. Plus, leaving dead branches in place invites insects and disease, which could kill the entire tree.
To avoid this, use your thumbnail to scrape and test any suspect branches for either green or brown undergrowth. If you’re still unsure, test the health of your branches by attempting to bend them. Across tree species, lively branches will bend easily, and dead branches will snap under pressure.
Unlike a few notable exceptions, such as birch, maple, and eucalyptus trees, tree bark should not come loose, peel, or contain fungi or moss on its surface.
It’s essential to check your trees for holes and cracks and protect them with tree guards, but be careful of the equipment you’re using. Nicks, gouges, and other equipment-inflicted damages to the trunk allow insects and diseases that can infect an entire tree.
If you’ve planted a pine, hemlock, spruce, or any other evergreen tree, you’ll need to watch for potential bare patches.
Bare patches are simply areas free of needles and result from limited water or nutrients reaching branches, poor pruning practices, insect and disease infiltration, or animal-inflicted damage.
Planters, however, should be aware of deciduous trees, whose leaves are shed in the fall naturally and leave the branches bare throughout the winter.
Your trees will go through numerous stages throughout the year, so it’s vital to ensure their leaves match the correct color hue for the spring, summer, and fall. For example, an unhealthy tree may start to turn brown before autumn if it’s getting too much sun, heat or isn’t provided enough water.
Further, look out for irregularly-shaped or stunted leaves, as this is a characteristic of insect or pesticide damage, disease, and nutrient deficiency. For an evergreen, deep green needles throughout the year are a sign of health.
Sometimes the health of your tree is out of your control. Insect infiltration and disease can infect virtually all species, and it’s important to check on them regularly. Warning signs include visible insects, leaf distortions, lack of flowers or fruit, irregular branch growth, oozing sap, and even small holes in the bark.
If you notice your tree drooping, wilting, or drying up, check to see if you’re overwatering, under-watering, giving it too much sun, or not giving the soil the attention it deserves. If you feel like you’re out of options, it’s time to seek professional help.
If your tree shows signs of disease or infection and you’re not sure why you may need to check for insect infestation. Asian long-horned beetles, emerald ash borers, Japanese beetles, Asian citrus psyllids, whiteflies, and hemlock wooly adelgids are all cause for concern and must be dealt with immediately.
If you have trouble identifying an insect infestation, gauge your tree’s health using steps and contact a tree service professional who can guide you in the right direction.
Maintaining trees on your property, yard, or landscape takes regular care and maintenance, but it’s worth the investment. Whether you’ve planted trees years ago and want to maintain them for years to come or just planted new trees on your property, you deserve a beautiful outdoor space with lively, healthy trees.