There’s a lot to enjoy in the summer ? but there’s also a lot of work to do. When it comes to your trees, there are a few jobs you can do now to ensure a vibrant and healthy growing season and keep your trees strong going into the upcoming winter.
First things first ? inspect your trees.
Winter frosts and heavy snows can do a number on your trees. Inspect all of the trees on your property for damage, like winter burn. This happens when a tree does not receive enough moisture in the fall and cold winter winds dry out the leaf tissue. If you notice vertical cracks in the tree’s bark, you may be looking at sun scald, which can eventually lead to decay. Sun scald is more likely to be a problem with younger, thin-barked trees and occurs in the winter and spring months.
Additional signs of damage include abnormal leaf size, off-color bark and oozing sap. Any severely damaged or dead branches or trees should be removed.
Check for pests and diseases.
Unfortunately, trees are not immune from getting sick or overrun with pests. Insects tend to target vulnerable trees which are already weak from stress. Aphids are a common issue, notable for the sticky residue they leave behind after munching on tree leaves and stems.
The Emerald Ash Borer has caused devastating damage throughout most of the country. If you have Ash trees on your property, look for signs of dead branches starting at the top of the tree, and small D-shaped holes in the tree’s bark where the beetles exit in June. Trees with bad infestations may lose a third to a half of their branches in one year. The U.S. Forest Service operates an informative website on the Emerald Ash Borer, which you can find here.
Proactive care goes a long way in keeping your trees free from pests and diseases. If your tree has a bad infestation, it may need to be removed by a professional. Look for a certified arborist who meets the criteria of the International Society of Aboriculture.
Pick up the rubble.
Take advantage of the warm weather to pick up old leaves and twigs, fallen branches, or anything else that may be littering the floor of your landscape. Be especially careful to remove diseased material, and DON’T compost it; throw it in the trash.
Get out the pruning shears.
Now is the time to prune those dead or diseased branches you noticed in your inspection. Trees don’t try to repair or regrow injured or diseased wood; instead, they stop sending resources to the damaged tissue.
Pruning allows the tree to put energy into its healthy branches, it improves airflow and it can even lower the risk of insect infestation. If you are dealing with very large or very high dead branches, or branches that pose a risk to structures, vehicles or people, make sure you consult a professional first.
Feed your trees.
After a long, hard winter, trees are often desperate for nutrients. Help them recover and put their energy into new growth with a slow-release fertilizer. Healthy trees have the best defense against disease and insects.
Know how to water.
As the days become longer and hotter, it’s important to give your trees adequate moisture. Following a consistent watering schedule that mimics rainfall (a slow, deep soak) is the best bet. Established trees need one gallon (or one inch) of water each week and younger trees may need twice as much. Consider installing a drip line below ground and don’t water in the afternoon, when moisture can be lost to evaporation.
Apply new mulch.
Mulch provides so many benefits to your trees and can be a lifesaver in the hot summer. Add two to four inches of mulch around the base of each tree, being careful not to pile it up around the trunk (this is called “volcano mulching” and can kill your tree). In addition to retaining moisture and keeping soil temperatures cool, mulch provides added nutrients to the soil.
If the warm weather is calling to you, go ahead and answer. Dust off those gardening gloves and give your trees the attention they need to make it through the long summer.
As summer approaches, it’s up to us to protect the trees on our property. Trees that are exposed to extreme heat and dry conditions during the summer can be stressed and more prone to health issues the following winter.
Young trees, especially, need extra care and diligent watering in hot, dry weather. Older, more established trees may not require extra watering, but there are steps you can take to ensure the tree and root system remains healthy.
Summer Watering Tips
Follow a regular, consistent watering schedule that mimics natural rainfall. Give each tree one gallon of water (the equivalent to one inch of rain) every week or so.
Take Extra Care.
For newly planted or young trees, water more frequently during hot, dry weather. They are still establishing their root systems and need extra care during drought, otherwise they will become stressed.
Choose the Right Time.
Avoid watering trees during the afternoon, when evaporation is at its peak. The best time to water is early in the morning, before the heat of the day.
Deep watering is the best kind of watering. If possible, install a drip system and bury it at least a feet below the ground.
Don’t Underestimate the Power of Mulch.
Keep trees well mulched (2-4 inches) to retain moisture and regulate the soil temperature. If you have a drip system, make sure to apply mulch beyond the drip line for maximum water uptake. Read how to properly apply mulch to your trees here.
Keep Your Trees Happy Year-Round.
Keeping trees happy and healthy throughout the year goes a long way toward keeping them protected during the harsh summer months. Fertilize regularly and apply compost to the soil twice a year to improve the soil structure and reduce water runoff.
How to be Firewise
Going into the summer season, there has been a flurry of news articles highlighting wildfire danger in New Jersey’s Pinelands, with Rolling Stone Magazine going so far as to report headlines like “Apocalypse in the Garden State.”
Since the last major blaze in 1963 – known as Black Saturday – the population in the Pinelands has tripled. According to the article, “If a series of blazes starts on the right dry and windy day, it could take out a large chunk of the Jersey coastline.”
Although most city dwellers don’t think much about wildfire danger, the 720% population increase in wildland/urban interface areas across the U.S. (since 1960) has put more homes and lives in jeopardy than ever before. Because embers from wildfires can travel up to 14 miles, home ignitions can happen anywhere.
What Does That Mean for New Jersey Homeowners?
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), “When it comes to wildfire risk, it is not a geographical location, but a set of conditions that determine the home’s ignition potential in any community.”
There are simple, proven steps you can take to protect your home or property from fire, like:
- Pruning trees on the property so that the lowest branches are no lower than 6 feet from the ground
- Keeping grass, trees and shrubs on the property well watered and maintained
- Clearing leaves and dead vegetation from gutters, porches, and decks within 10 feet from the home or building
- Removing flammable items like firewood and propane tanks within 30 feet from the home or building
For more tips on how to protect your home, download NFPA’s Firewise Toolkit.
If you need help getting your trees ready for summer, give us a call. The tree care experts at Friendly Tree are here to provide skilled, reliable service, taking the utmost care of our customers and their trees.
There’s a right way and a wrong way to apply mulch to the trees on your property. As with everything in life, spending a little extra time to do it the right way will give you much better results.
The New Jersey certified arborists here at Friendly Tree understand the issues urban trees face, and we work diligently to mitigate these issues for a healthy, happy landscape.
Lessons From Nature
Next time you take a stroll through your favorite wooded trail, take a moment to look at the forest floor. Trees are naturally blanketed by a layer of leaves and other organic material which help to retain moisture, suppress weeds, regulate soil temperature and replenish essential nutrients.
The best way to mulch trees in an urban landscape is to mimic their natural environment as closely as possible.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Mulching
- Apply mulch in the Spring once the ground has thawed, or after planting.
- Ensure proper soil drainage before mulching. Use less mulch if the tree is in a poorly drained area.
- Clear a 3-10 foot circle around the base of the tree, free from grass, rocks or debris. DO NOT spray an herbicide, like Roundup, to kill the grass.
- Before mulching, spread compost within the circle and water thoroughly.
- Choose a natural mulch material such as hardwood chips, hardwood or softwood bark, composted leaves, straw or pine needles. Inorganic mulch (such as pulverized rubber) won’t supply nutrients or improve soil structure.
- Layer mulch 2-4 inches deep above the compost.
- Use a rake to spread the mulch evenly out to the edge of the circle, making sure excess mulch isn’t piled up against the trunk of the tree.
- Spread mulch up to the tree’s trunk; this is known as volcano mulching and can eventually kill your tree! Keep mulch away from the tree’s root flare, which is where the roots begin and the trunk ends.
- Use compost or mulch that is too “hot,” which simply means it hasn’t had adequate time to break down and decompose (like fresh manure or fresh grass clippings).
- Apply mulch too deep, which can cause root rot in wet soils.
- Use fine mulch, which can limit the penetration of air and water as it becomes compacted.
- Mulch right before the ground freezes, which creates an ideal shelter for rodents and pests looking for a warm winter hideaway.
Mulch is a Tree’s Best Friend
Mulch is essential to the health and vitality of the trees on your property, and the benefits far outweigh the cost and time invested. In fact, it’s one of the most important practices for optimal tree health. In urban landscapes, where trees may not naturally grow, it’s important to provide a rich, protected soil environment similar to their natural growing conditions.
- Helps trees conserve moisture, which also means less watering and lower water bills.
- Prevents weed growth and competition.
- Regulates and insulates soil temperature, protecting roots from extreme heat and cold.
- Reduces trees’ susceptibility to diseases.
- Helps to prevent soil compaction around tree roots.
- Protects trees from lawn mower or weed whacker damage.
- Improves soil structure, aeration and drainage.
- Enhances soil fertility, providing nutrients and microorganisms essential to tree growth.
- Provides a uniform, aesthetically pleasing look to the landscape.
How Much Mulch Do You Need?
Now that you know the proper way to mulch your trees, exactly how much mulch will you need?
The easiest way to determine that is to use our mulch calculator, which tells you how many cubic yards of mulch you will need per tree (or garden bed).
Or, simply give us a call and we can help you determine what kind and how much mulch you need for your property. With 26 years in the business, there is no other company in New Jersey that knows more about tree health. At Friendly Tree, we pride ourselves on providing expert, reliable service, taking the utmost care of our customers and their trees.
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