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GardenSMART :: 6 Steps to Best Care for New Trees

6 Steps to Best Care for New Trees

By The Davey Tree Expert Company
Photographs courtesy of The Davey Tree Expert Company

Gently placed in its planting spot, sealed with soil and quenched with water–you can't wait for your new tree to flourish!

For that to happen, though, your new tree needs a little help from you. Of course, you know it needs enough water, sunlight and nutrients. But is now the time to add a stake or give it a little trim?

Ian Campbell of Davey's San Diego, California office shares six tips on how to best care for your newly-planted tree.

6 Tips to Keep Your Newly-Planted Tree Happy and Healthy

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Keep your tree hydrated

"Trees lose a massive amount of their root system after being planted–sometimes up to 95 percent," Campbell says. "To make it even tougher, the roots that are left are often incredibly dry."

To help your tree roots, Campbell recommends deeply watering young trees every day during the first two weeks. After that, water once a week for the first year while your tree still has its leaves. Be sure to take rainfall into account before watering, too.

Add a burst of nutrients

"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.

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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.

As always, there are a few exceptions to this rule of thumb. Click to see if your tree falls into one of those categories.

Check where the flare is

"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.

Think your new tree needs a bit more help? Ask a local arborist, like Campbell, if your tree is suffering from transplant shock or needs to be replanted.

With more than 9,000 employees throughout North America, The Davey Tree Expert Company provides solutions for residential, utility, commercial and government clients. Rooted in research, the company's vision is to achieve balance among people, progress and the environment. Tree experts since 1880, Davey provides diversified tree services, grounds maintenance and environmental services. Davey is one of the largest employee-owned companies in the U.S. and is headquartered in Kent, Ohio.



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