TREE CARE AFTER PLANTING
Newly planted plants require routine watering schedules. Thoroughly soak the area around the roots to a depth of at least 12 inches. Immediately after planting and then:
The 1st year: every 7 to 10 days.
The 2nd year: every 14 to 18 days if some kind of mulch is used.
The 3rd year: once a month except in extremely dry weather.
Differing soil conditions, winds and drainage must also considered when determining the need for water. Well-drained, sandy soil will need more water, and more often, than clay soil that may hold too much water. A slow trickle of the garden hose at the base of the plant for several hours or until the soil is thoroughly soaked is the best method. Short, frequent watering should be avoided, as this does not promote deep root growth but rather, the development of a shallow root system that is vulnerable to several environmental stresses.
Adding mulch around the base of the plant is a very important part of plant care that is often overlooked. By mulching plants, a more favorable environment is provided for the tree roots. Mulch allows better infiltration of water, holds soil moisture, limits weed growth, and discourages injury from lawnmowers and weed-eaters.
A 3-6 inch layer of mulch, spread to form a 3-6 foot diameter circle around the plant should be applied. Keep the mulch material from direct contact with the tree trunk. Wood and bark chips are good mulching materials. Rock mulch is also a good to use, it doesn’t blow away in the wind! A porous landscape fabric that allows gas and water exchange and can be used as a weed barrier underneath the mulch. Plastic under mulch can cause roots to suffocate, and is not recommended.
Fertilization of newly planted trees should occur after planting and can be done yearly. We recommend that you fertilize three times in the spring, May 1, June 1, and July 1, with a water soluble fertilizer or once in the spring with a slow release fertilizer. Surface applications should be watered in. Do not apply nitrogen in late summer unless the plant is nutrient deficient, as this can promote new growth that may not harden off properly and can be damaged by winter weather. Phosphorus and potassium can be applied in the fall, as they will enhance winter acclimation and promote root growth. Always read and follow label instructions.
Trees and shrubs generally do not need to be pruned immediately before or after planting as most nurseries prune out co-dominant leaders, limbs that rub against each other, and poorly angled branches, prior to sale. If these problems have not been taken care of in the nursery, remove them after planting. Any broken or damaged limbs that occur in the transit of the plant from nursery to planting site should be removed after planting as well. After planting, you should let the new plant become established (at least a couple of years) before you start pruning. After plant establishment, prune that plant at least once a year.
Most newly planted trees will do better without staking. Young trees standing alone with their tops free to move will develop stronger, more resilient trunks than those staked for several years. Trunk movement is required to develop strong, tapered trunks.
If however, a tree is unstable in a strong wind or is pushed over, then staking is required. A common problem with staking trees is the girdling effect that the ties can have on the tree. Soft nylon webbing attached by grommets to a stake can reduce this damage. Be sure to allow for some movement of the tree and remove the stakes and ties once the tree is established – usually after one year.
Proper winter care begins in the summer. Proper watering and fertilization in spring and summer is required. Watering can be decreased in early fall as temperatures drop, but plants should continue to be watered until the soil freezes.
Sunscald, characterized by sunken, dried, or cracked bark, is caused by the heating effect of the winter sun in cold weather. It usually occurs on the south or southwest side of the tree. In the fall, wrap young and thin barked trees with commercial tree wrap or use plastic cylinders to encompass the tree trunk form the bottom up to the first major branch. Remove protective coverings in spring. Thin barked trees such as maples and honey locust may require winter protection for several years.
Winter browning of evergreens is normally caused by the combined effects of wind and sun. Trees lose water from the needles while roots are in frozen soil. To protect them water well throughout the growing season especially before the ground freezes. Anti-desiccant sprays can be used but are not always effective in offsetting the drying effects. Select species and cultivars appropriate for the area. Species susceptible to winter injury should be planted in areas with minimal exposure to winter wind and sun.
Animal damage can be severe during hard winters. To protect individual trees from mice and rabbits, place a cylinder of ¼ inch mesh hardware cloth or white plastic drainpipe around the trunk. Protection should extend high enough to prevent animals from feeding at snow level and should be firmly anchored in the soil without disturbing the tree roots. If many trees and shrubs are to be protected, regular applications of a commercial repellent (Liquid Fence) may be needed.