Tree Care


Although it is a beautiful cold Winters morning as I write this, it has been the warmest Winter on record and there are already plenty of signs of Spring. Very soon buds on trees and shrubs will be starting to swell in readiness for the leaves emerging and opening. To do this annual transformation, plants take up a lot of water through their roots during Spring.

Newly planted trees (and larger shrubs/hedging) do not initially have very much root growth to support the crown. It is therefore very important during a tree’s first Spring to provide additional watering to whatever falls as rain. This is most effective as a thorough watering to the base of the tree every 1 or 2 weeks. A little and often approach is not as good for the roots, and turning sprinklers on will have very little benefit for the tree as most of the water will fall on ground too far from the roots to be of benefit.

During the rest of the growing season occasional thorough watering should be provided during dry spells or windy weather when trees may be struggling to get enough water to replace what is lost through the leaves. Once established, trees will not normally require watering. However, every situation is different and during prolonged dry spells during the second or even third years it would be a wise precaution to provide some additional water – through a watering pipe or underground hose if installed, which helps encourage roots downwards.

Another vital element of tree care is to ensure effective staking. The purpose of the stake is to hold the root ball still in the ground; it is not to stop the trunk from flexing in the wind – the trunk is designed to do this and may well grow stronger if allowed to. If roots can move in the ground then as young roots start to form and to spread outside the planting hole they can be broken off whenever the wind blows, or a gap forms between the root ball and the surrounding soil which roots can’t bridge. This results in a tree that can never establish an effective root system – either to anchor it in the ground or to take up sufficient water.

The appearance of a poorly staked tree is often the same as a tree suffering from drought. In the photo above these young Birch trees were staked but the stake was only driven into the rootball itself. The trees leafed up well in Spring but then gradually all died through the year as they failed to take up sufficient water. Gently moving the trunk revealed quite clearly that the root ball was moving in the ground – a clear sign that the stake wasn’t doing its job.

Throughout the growing seasons ties should be checked and periodically loosened as the trunk grows. They should never be allowed to constrict the trunk. Stakes can usually be removed after about three years.

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This post was written by Christine Whatley on February 29, 2016 10:31 am

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