Once your new tree is planted, of course you have to take care of it. Some trees require more attention than others, but following some general guidelines will keep your young tree growing and happy for years to come.
For the first year or two, especially after a week or so of especially hot or dry weather, watch your trees closely for signs of moisture stress. If you see leaf wilting or hard, caked soil, water the trees well and slowly enough to allow the water to soak in. This will encourage deep root growth. Keep the area under the trees mulched.
TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Susan Patterson adds, "Consider a water bag for new trees, this will ensure that they get ample moisture during the early stages of development. And do not allow mulch to touch tree trunks."
Young trees need protection against rodents, frost cracks, sunscald, and lawn mowers and weed whackers. Mice and rabbits frequently girdle small trees by chewing away the bark at snow level. Since the tissues that transport nutrients in the tree are located just under the bark, a girdled tree often dies in the spring when growth resumes. Weed whackers are also a common cause of girdling. Plastic guards are an inexpensive and easy control method. Frost cracking is caused by the sunny side of the tree expanding at a different rate than the colder shaded side. This can cause large splits in the trunk. Sunscald can occur when a young tree is suddenly moved from a shady spot into direct sun. Light colored tree wraps can be used to protect the trunk from sunscald.
Some species of evergreen trees may need protection against winter sun and wind. A thorough watering in the fall before the ground freezes is recommended. Spray solutions are available to help prevent drying of foliage during the winter.
Fertilization is usually not needed for newly planted trees. Depending on soil and growing conditions, fertilizer may be beneficial at a later time.
Many young trees require staking in order to stand strong against wind and other inclement weather. Proper staking results in strong trunk development. Be sure to follow staking direction closely for the particular species of tree that you are planting.
TIP: Susan recommends, "Check support ties on trees frequently as the tree matures to be sure that they are not causing injury to the tree."
It necessary to begin to train trees when they are young, A healthy tree foundation is dependent on consistent pruning beginning in the dormant season after you plant. Dead, diseased and crossed branches should be removed and trees that are meant to have a single leader should be reduced to a single leader if there is more than one. While over pruning is not recommended, a diligent watch should be placed on trees until they reach at least 5 years of age. Research the pruning needs of your tree before you prune.
TIP: Susan advises, "Always use clean and sharp pruning tools and dispose of all pruning debris."
Courtesy of the US Dept. of Agriculture.