When you bring home a young tree, do you know what the best practices for young tree care are? We want to make sure your tree gets off to a good start in life so you can enjoy it for years to come. The first 3 to 4 years are the most important years for young trees. Savana has compiled a list of the best advice from gardening experts. Here are our tips on how to best care for your young tree.
One of the most important steps when planting a new tree is placement—whether in the yard or in the ground. When choosing a site, be sure to take into account the full width of the tree as it matures. Will it stay small and compact next to your fence, or will the roots start to break down and move your fence line over time?
In general, most trees, even dwarf trees, do best when they are at least 10 to 20 feet away from any buildings, glove boxes, fences, or other large trees that are exposed. Larger trees may need to be 30 feet or taller in each direction because of how large their root systems will be.
Height is also an important consideration. Are there other branches or wires from older trees above your planting site? Some trees will stay low enough that it's not a problem, but many privacy and native trees grow tall and need pruning if they get too close to power lines.
Underground lines can also cause major problems. If you are unsure of the depth of a pipe or utility line, there are public resources available to help identify safe planting areas.
Consider how much sunlight the tree will receive in your chosen site. Will it get at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight? If not, is this a shade tolerant tree?
Ok, now you are ready to plant, depth is very important. Don't plant your small tree too deep! ! This is extremely important. When you're done planting, you should be able to see the top of the soil before you mulch. This will ensure that the tree remains at the soil depth it is accustomed to during its first few years of life in the nursery.
We recommend planting trees in early spring or early fall—an ideal time for soil conditions and the tree's natural cycles.
To plant your tree, dig a hole two to three times wider than the container it will come in, but the same depth. You can even use the container to measure your hole and stop digging down once the top of the container is level with the ground. Then, mix any starter fertilizer, compost, or any other soil amendment into the soil you removed. You'll want your soil mix to retain the right amount of water and nutrients while still providing ample drainage.
Gently remove the tree from the container, or remove the root ball from the burlap. Gently massage the sides and bottom of the roots so they don't become compacted.
Position your tree so the soil it reaches is level with the ground, then backfill the hole under the roots with your backfilling soil mix. It helps to have a friend or family member hold the tree up while you backfill. They can also help ensure your tree is planted straight. Tap the soil lightly as you go.
Once the tree is stabilized in place, any tree stand or support system can be attached. Many trees don't need stakes after the first season—moving them into the wind can actually help encourage strong root support. Protect the bark of young trees by wrapping any ropes around the trunk with a protective barrier, for example, an old garden hose.
Then, cover the area with mulch. Keep the mulch level, about 2-3 inches thick. Also, make sure your mulch doesn't touch the trunk -- for healthy growth, the mulch should be kept 3 or 4 inches from the new tree's trunk. Organic matter like sawdust does a great job of holding water and providing nutrients to the soil.
Young trees need regular watering, especially during the first 6 to 8 months of planting. Depending on the size of the tree you're planting, it may need more than other plants in the garden.
A great way to make sure your tree gets a good deep watering a few times a week is to use a water bag - you fill it up once or twice a week and it will be on a tree The well-placed young tree slowly drips water into the soil. If you have a long row of trees, an irrigation hose may be better for you. The water in the sprinkler system may not be deep enough.
Wait to water the tree again until the first few inches of soil are dry. Overwatering a young tree is sometimes even worse than underwatering, as the young tree's roots may become submerged or rot. Different regions have different drainage rates, so watch how quickly the soil dries after your garden is watered. Mulch will go a long way in helping to retain moisture, helping to reduce the number of times a week it needs to be watered.
Remember, infrequent watering deep into the soil is better than a little watering every day. As your tree grows, you'll need to water less and less until it only needs water during drought or especially hot weather.
Pruning and Pest Control
Early in life, you only need to prune the tree to remove dead branches and prevent the spread of disease. You don't need to worry about pruning airflow or shaping until the tree is older. For most trees, pruning is best done during dormancy, just before spring growth begins. Pruning during the coldest part of winter or at the height of the growing season can cause problems for young trees.
If pruning a young tree, for the first few years, simply remove the flowers or excess fruit to protect the young tree while still maintaining a good harvest.
If you do need to prune for health reasons, make sure you always have a healthy main branch – this is the branch at the top of the tree that guides the tree to grow straight. If the dragon head is damaged, some trees will not grow tall. If you must remove a tap, use clean pruning shears to trim at a 45-degree angle above another branch that might become a new tap.
If you are concerned that deer or other animals will eat the bark, you can immediately fence off the area around the tree with chicken wire. This wire shield can be wrapped in a light colored material in winter to reflect light off the bark and prevent winter splitting, but only do this if extreme weather changes are a concern - the wrapping can be welcoming to pests s home. Keep this protective wire guard a few inches away from the trunk.
Watch out for common pests – borers, scale shells, aphids, caterpillars, spider mites, and other organisms or fungi that eat young trees from the inside out. If you see any, physically remove them and judiciously spray the leaves with neem oil or another organic pest control material - neem and horticultural oils work by suffocating pests.
Remove weeds and suckers. Weeds are really anything you don't want close to your tree - even if there are flowering perennials, lawn grasses or other landscaping plants that get too close to your new tree, they will absorb nutrients as much as possible - move them to Elsewhere in your garden, pull grass that gets too close (within 6–12 inches) to the trunk during the first few years. Suckers are those branches that grow too low to be living branches--your young tree will feed resources to those ineffective suckers until you remove them.
Don't worry too much if you get a slight transplant shock in the first few weeks of planting - trees don't like to move! They may drop some leaves, or grow slowly, but this will only last for a while.