Protecting Your Investment: Best Practices For Total Tree Care

By TruGreen June 21, 2015
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A tree that's given proper nutrition, pruning, and protection can transform your home into a neighborhood attraction. See how to make it happen. 

Keep The Mower Away With Mulch

Damage to tree trunks is a major cause of tree death. Typically, this happens when you mow too close to the tree and nick the bark. Once you’ve opened up a wound or damaged the bark, insects like bark borers and ants are attracted to tree wounds. They may make your tree their home and lay eggs in the damaged area. 

RECOMMENDATION: Creating a mulch circle around your tree can reduce the risk of mowing too close, as well as root out plants competing for rain and fertilizer in the root zone of the tree. 

BONUS: Mulch can actually improve plant growth, enhance your landscape appearance, prevent plant damage, reduce maintenance time (i.e. weed control) and decrease water demands. 

Inject Your Tree with Nutrients

Have you noticed tiny holes in your tree’s bark, or is it lacking in color lately?  Your tree might be ready for Trunk Injections.If you take vitamins to maximize your own health, why not consider giving your trees that same TLC? 

RECOMMENDATION: Your TruGreen specialist can use targeted trunk injections to deposit scientifically formulated solutions into the vascular system of your trees without causing damage. The injection seals a liquid solution into the tree trunk where it gets absorbed and circulates all that healthy goodness. Benefits of trunk injection include nutrient imbalance corrections, long term pest control, plant health and color improvement, and stressed tree relief (essentially, a boost to the immune system).

Prevent Incurable Disease

Verticillium wilt is not pretty. It’s a fungal disease that lives in the soil and invades susceptible plants through their roots then spreads through the plant’s vascular system. 

The disease travels up a tree or shrub’s vascular system and leaves dark discolorations. Symptoms of verticillium wilt include:  

  • Curling leaves that turn yellow or red and eventually brown then drop off
  • Stems and branches die back
  •  TIP: You’ll probably notice this on one side of the tree, while the other appears unaffected
  • If you peel back the bark, you’ll see dark streaks on the wood
  • If you cut through a branch and look at the cross section you’ll see rings of dark color

RECOMMENDATION: Verticillium wilt treatment for trees and shrubs focuses on giving the plant the best possible care to build up its resistance. These include: 

  • Watering your tree regularly and, if possible, providing afternoon shade
  • Fertilizing on schedule, using a low-nitrogen, high-phosphorus fertilizer
  • Pruning off dead and dying branches  

Unfortunately, once verticillium wilt enters the plant, it can’t be fully cured. It’s best to remove and destroy small, easily replaced plants that show symptoms. 

TIP: The disease remains in the soil after you remove the plant, so don’t plant another susceptible species in the same area. 

Practice Proper Pruning

Pruning helps maintain the size and shape of your trees, increases air and light penetration into the foliage canopy and promotes flowering and fruiting. 

RECOMMENDATION: Thin out your branches with a light branch trim. It allows entry of air and light into the center of the plant for a healthier tree that’s less susceptible to fungal diseases. Just in case you need it, here’s a refresher on pruning basics:  

  • First remove the dead and broken branches. To achieve good structural form, selectively remove crossing, inward-pointing, and parallel branches. 
  • When making a heading cut, prune to approximately ¼ inch above a bud. When making a thinning cut, do not leave branch stubs.
  • Use the proper size tool for the job. Use hand pruners for stems up to ¼ inch thick, loppers for limbs up the 1 inch thick, and pruning saws for branches greater than 1 inch.
  • Time the pruning of flowering ornamentals to the season of flowering to avoid removing flowers.

Keep Your Tree Hydrated

Your tree needs the right amount of water to grow and be healthy. Symptoms of over or under watering are wilting, poor color, and poor growth. 

RECOMMENDATION: Correct watering can go a long way when it comes to properly nurturing your trees. Keep in mind, though, that proper watering depends on your tree, the soil, site and weather:  

  • Dry Conditions: Plants have the greatest need for water when it’s hot and dry, like in these warm summer months. Use a soil probe or screwdriver to check soil moistures.
  •  TIP: You’ll be able to easily detect soil levels based on how easy or difficult it is to slide in the utensil.
  • Wet Conditions: Wet areas can be just as damaging to plants as dry areas. Too much moisture can kill roots and limit water uptake. A general rule for proper watering is to water plants irregularly and deeply.
  • New Transplants: Water container or balled/burlapped plants several times a week in hot, dry weather. Take care to make sure that water is going to the roots instead of around it. Check the soil often to ensure the water is hitting its target. 
  •  TIP: Be especially careful to not overwater as it can lead to plant root rot.
  • Mature Trees: Since their roots are usually well established, they need less water than small shrubs and transplants. Water deeply by slow soaking during extended dry periods.

Learn more about TruGreen tree and shrub services or schedule a consultation with one of our PhD-Certified Specialists.

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