7 Dos and 6 Don'ts of DIY Tree Care

gloved hand planting small tree
  • 1 hours
  • Beginner

Trees can last for generations when properly cared for. The good news is that most trees don't require much attention. In return, they offer a host of benefits, such as shade, fruit to eat, fresh air, and aesthetic appeal. Here are some things to keep in mind when caring for any kind of tree.

1. Do Choose the Right Tree

Trees are highly resilient when matched with the right resources. Before planting trees, evaluate whether it’s a good fit for your yard. Ask questions and do research. Start with the Plant Hardiness Zone for your area. For example, it makes sense that a tropical tree won’t do well in a frigid environment.

Also consider sun requirements, companion plants in the yard, maximum mature size, and soil preferences. The best trees for your situation are trees that are native to the region as they will be best adapted to all conditions.

2. Do Plant Properly

large young tree in planting hole in yard

One huge mistake tree owners make is planting trees too deep. Keep it close to the surface so the root system can access the resources it needs.

3. Do Stake and Protect

New trees often need a bit of extra care. While not all trees need to be staked, if you have a strong crosswind, staking saplings can guide them to grow straight rather than leaning off to one side. You may also need to protect young trees from wildlife.

4. Do Water

Trees need water throughout their lives, but watering requirements change as a tree matures. Saplings need a bit of extra attention while mature trees rarely need watering except during the driest periods.

5. Do Mulch

gardener mulching under tree

Trees love mulch as a way to trap moisture and reduce watering needs. Use a hardwood that breaks down slowly and apply it two to three inches in thickness.

6. Do Watch for Disease

Frequently check tree health at every stage of development. Look for dead limbs and watch for curling leaves, bald patches, and weeping bark that can all indicate a problem.

7. Do Trim Annually as Needed

gloved hands pruning tree

Proper pruning improves the health of the tree and allows it to better access resources like sunlight and airflow. Trimming away dead branches also diverts energy to healthy branches.

1. Don’t Prune in the Wrong Season

While pruning is beneficial for most trees, timing is crucial. Avoid pruning trees too close to winter. Trees won’t have a chance to heal before the cold sets in. Unhealed wounds can also invite bacterial infections.

2. Don’t Over or Under Prune

chainsaw cutting tree

Over pruning can mean a lot of things. Typically, it means taking more than 20% of a tree at one time. If your tree needs extensive pruning, do it over a few seasons instead. Under pruning can be just as harmful, however. Not taking out dead and diseased branches is a recipe for ill tree health.

Also, allowing a tree to become overgrown results in blocking it from proper airflow and movement. Under pruning can also create unsafe conditions from weak branches that can break off.

3. Don’t Prune Improperly

Do your research before getting out the loppers and tree saw. There is a proper technique for pruning that provides the best long-term results for your tree. Rather than improperly prune, call in a professional.

4. Don’t Over Mulch or Over Water

Too much of a good thing can cause your tree to rot. Do not make a mound of mulch up the tree. In fact, keep mulch out of contact with the base of the trees. The goal is to protect the root system, not the trunk. Overwatering can also lead to root rot and fungal infection.

5. Don’t Ignore Bugs

Keep an eye out for the little buggers. They can hide beneath leaves, yet bring big problems. If you notice signs of pest issues, address it early and aggressively.

6. Don’t Forget to Remove Supports

While saplings might need a little guidance in windy areas, don’t forget to remove supports as the tree matures. Leaving them in place can not only result in damage to the bark of the tree, but weakens a root system that needs to learn how to stand on its own.