Trees are often neglected when it comes to maintenance, but they can be effectively cared for and kept in good shape with just a little effort. With these tips for tree care, trees in the garden will remain healthy and vital in the long term.
Many people think: Trees in the garden don’t need any care, they grow by themselves. This is a widespread view, but it is not true, even though trees are really very easy to care for compared to other plants. Tree care is especially important for young trees. Of course, the growing period in the first years in the garden determines the crown structure, vitality, resistance and yield of a tree. But old trees also need care. Pruning? Yes, this is part of tree care as a matter of course. However, except for fruit trees, no other healthy trees are actually dependent on regular pruning. Other measures are usually more important in tree care.
Tree care in the garden – What you should do
The proper care of tree pits
Keep tree pits as open as possible and don’t let turf or competitive perennials grow right up to the trunk – even if the grass carpet seems so practical and much easier to maintain. An overgrown tree pit won’t make a tree die, of course, but maintaining the tree pit encourages growth immensely and woody plants develop much better. After all, lawn grasses and also vigorous perennials such as Barren Strawberry (Waldsteinia ternata) or Iberian geranium (Geranium ibericum) take water and nutrients from the seepage and the trees are left empty-handed, the nutrient competition is enormous. This is especially a problem with shallow-rooted woody plants like magnolias. It’s not quite as dramatic with older trees, which can also get water from deeper layers of soil and fish for nutrients with an extensive root system. An underplanting of marigolds or nasturtiums is not problematic, as they do not develop such a pronounced root system.
If you want to create a tree pit around a tree in the lawn, remove the old grass and loosen the soil only superficially so you don’t damage roots. The open area of the disk should be at least one meter / three feet in diameter and may be bordered by pavers at the edge. If possible, do not use plastic sleeves set up, which will only interfere with maintenance. Remove all root weeds, which otherwise will spread again in no time. Do not leave the soil open, but cover it with compost, and then mulch five to ten centimeters (2 to 4 in) thick. Dried lawn clippings, potting soil, bark humus, shredded clippings or finely chopped nettles are suitable for this purpose.
The compost and the gradually decaying mulch layer provide nutrients, and the mulch layer inhibits the growth of weeds and also makes their seeds more difficult to germinate. Of course, the soil cover hinders tillage, but this is not a big deal in this case, since you easily damage roots near the surface when hoeing anyway, so you should leave it alone anyway. Grass clippings used as mulch need to be replaced from time to time, as they decompose quite quickly. In the case of sandy soils poor in humus, you can also spread leaves as mulch in the fall, but not too thick, otherwise this will attract mice.
Regular tree care then includes giving the woody plant two to three liters of compost in the spring and renewing the mulch layer. It is best to only pluck out weeds or.
Watering young trees
Regular tree care naturally includes watering. And trees can be quite thirsty, so a can of water is not enough. Especially flat-rooted trees such as beech, magnolia and most fruit trees should be watered thoroughly in the first few years after planting in dry summers, and at least once a week in hot weather. The best way to do this is to simply place the garden hose on the tree pit, turn on the faucet a bit, and let the water run for 10 to 15 minutes. At least 50 to 200 liters of water should seep into the ground, depending on the size of the tree.
Trunk protection against frost cracks
Trunk care also affects young trees in particular. Lime paint serves as frost protection for free-standing ornamental and fruit trees, and also slows hungry deer and prevents moss growth as a kind of wrinkle cream. Paint the entire trunk and the base of the first branches. The white paint reflects sunlight so the trunk doesn’t heat up during the day and the high temperature difference from the frosty nights doesn’t discharge into cracks that split open lengthwise. The same effect has white cuffs made of plastic, which can be wrapped around the trunk. Lime paint also ensures that overwintering eggs of pests die off. Rabbits and deer like to nibble on the tender bark of young trees, but they won’t bite into a thick, bitter-tasting layer of lime, they’d rather find untreated food elsewhere. Before you brush on the paint, you should scrub off loose pieces of bark and adhering moss with a hard brush.
Make corrective cuts in time
Rotten and crossing branches always come away, this is part of regular tree care. Unlike many ornamental shrubs, annual pruning is not necessary for trees. Only in the case of fruit trees does regular pruning ensure proper fruit set and keep the woody plants vital in the long term. But also young ornamental trees can be brought into shape by pruning and a possible misgrowth can be counteracted in time. This applies in particular to forked trunks, so-called forks.
Forks can be problematic in tree care
If a trunk forks into two equally strong partial trunks or branches after wind breakage, an injury in the juvenile phase or also due to genetic specifications, this is colloquially referred to as a fork, the tree then looks like a giant onion or a tuning fork. This is not bad at first, but under certain circumstances the tree can break apart at this point. Depending on the shape of the fork, a distinction is made between a V-shaped and a U-shaped fork in the trunk. A U-shaped fork is usually not a problem for the tree, as it can secure the weak point itself by forming special wood.
In the case of V-shaped, however, the danger is much greater, since in this case the weight of the entire trunk above it presses on the rather acute-angled fork, especially if the trunk sections grow at a greater distance from each other. If the two trunk parts are then not sufficiently intergrown and rot even forms, the tree can break apart. The problem here is ingrown bark between the trunk pieces, so that the trunk parts cannot grow together. Critical are twisted seams with bulging growths along the entire seam and often also the escape of black sap. However, an exact assessment of the actual risk of breakage should definitely be made by an arborist. Nothing can be generalized here, and both forks can also become problematic.
What to do in the case of forks?
In the case of young trees, remove the thinner trunk in good time. If the trunk is less than ten centimeters (4 in) thick, this can usually be done without any problems. If the trunks are already thicker, there is a risk of rotting due to fungi in subsequent years after pruning. So it is better to ensure in good time that two competing trunks do not arise in the first place. If you do this later, you also have to adjust the crown, which should be left to an expert because of the tree height. Without a rope climbing technique or a lifting platform, there is often nothing that can be done. Professional arborists can also sometimes secure the twigs with ropes and other aids.
The right wound care
Every sawed-off branch leaves a wound. Of course, this is not comparable to an injury to human skin, since a tree does not heal a wound with new cells, but only seals it off. And it does this best when the cut surfaces are as smooth as possible. Tree care therefore includes smoothing the edges of saw wounds with a sharp knife as needed so that the tree quickly rolls over the cut surface. A positive side effect is that smooth wounds are not as susceptible to fungal and bacterial attack, which can cause tremendous damage, especially to fruit trees. Woody plants can cope very well with a smooth cut, even without a wound closure agent.
Care products can be helpful when cutting thick branches, especially on delicate fruit trees. Apply wound closure agents only to the edge of the wound, and only to cut areas larger than 2.5 cm ( 1 in) in diameter. The agents act as an artificial bark, allowing the important callus tissue to form more quickly. The wood in the center of a wound is dry and inactive anyway, and a wound closure agent would actually promote rot there. In general, however, you should avoid sawing off thick branches during tree care and take preventive action if possible.
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