"At Davey, we fertilize with Arbor Green PRO®. Since this is a slow-release, low-burn fertilizer, you don't have to worry about when to fertilize and can apply it at any time, even on newly-planted trees," Campbell notes.
If you use a similar fertilizer, you'll safely replenish nutrients that are generally lacking in most yards' soil. To figure out exactly what nutrients your tree needs to thrive, you can DIY a soil test or ask your arborist for help.
Lock in moisture
Mulch is just what new trees need to retain moisture, control soil temperature and ward off weeds. Plus, adding mulch can nearly double the growth rate of the tree, shows U.S. Forest Service research. In fact, mulching oak, maple, hickory, birch and cherry trees can increase growth by 79 percent!
"You want to apply 2 to 4 inches of organic mulch around the tree's drip zone, which is as far as the tree's leaves grow out. Then, use a rake to pull mulch 1 to 2 inches from the trunk to provide proper air circulation," advises Campbell.
This way, you'll avoid piling on too much mulch, which can create a cool, damp environment that can attract fungi, pests and diseases.
Ditch the defects
Cut off minor branch defects at the time of planting, but that should be the extent of your pruning for a bit!
"About two or three years after planting your new tree, that's when you'll want to begin training your tree. An arborist can help you remove competing branches to define a clear trunk, making your tree's overall structure much stronger," Campbell explains.
Skip the stake
Most new trees don't need to be staked.
"If you stake a tree that doesn't need it, your tree can grow fewer roots or even develop a weak tree base," Campbell comments.
"Even if all looks good for now, check your tree's root flare. Often, people plant trees too deeply or in a hole that's too shallow. Sometimes your tree will let you know right away, but usually symptoms lay dormant for years," Campbell says.
Make sure the root flare, where the trunk starts to bulge out at the bottom, is at or slightly above the ground level. Also, think back and recall if the hole the tree sits in was two to three times wider than the root ball.
If that isn't the case, Campbell suggests replanting your tree or having an arborist excavate its root collar.
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