Maintaining a Newly Planted TreeReading time: 5 minutes
Planting a new tree isn't a one-and-done deal. Nurturing newly planted trees is essential to increasing their longevity. Like any young organism, new trees require care, attention, and a little love.
Whether you're adding shade to your yard, curating new habitats for helpful wildlife, or want a change of scenery when you look out of your window, properly caring for newly planted trees is vital for their long-term health and survival.
We've gathered some of the essential things you need to know while caring for trees in this fragile state.
Creating Long-Term Health
Providing proper new tree care during their early years can help trees establish strong root systems, withstand environmental stresses, and thrive for future generations.
There are a few ways to give your trees the care they require. You'll want to combine them to create the perfect conditions for your specific tree species.
Watering Newly Planted Trees
The most common reason for the poor survival of new trees is inconsistent watering. That's because too much water can be just as harmful as not enough. You should aim to water your newly planted tree at least every two to three days.
A reasonable goal is 15 gallons of water on these days. For larger trees – those with a trunk diameter of over two inches at chest height – you'll need between eight and 10 gallons per inch of trunk diameter per week.
The best way to tell if a tree needs water is to feel the dirt or soil around it. Remove a small amount – if it feels dry, it's likely the tree needs a top-up of water. If you're able, using a soaker hose or slow drip is a great idea and gives the tree at least two hours' worth of water.
For weeks when it rains more than two days, giving the new tree extra water is unnecessary. Continue providing your tree water until the first frost, which usually happens around October. At that point, give your tree one final soak, which should get you through winter.
Once you've planted a new tree, schedule regular check-ups and examine it for signs of insect infestations, discoloured or yellowing leaves, or substantial leaf dropping.
If you notice any of these issues on a small scale, your tree will be able to overcome them on its own as long as you give it enough water, especially during periods of drought.
Do you have an insect problem in your new tree? Is your tree not overcoming the issues? Reach out to our expert arborists here at Green Drop for a free consultation on how we can help you fight them off and allow your tree to recover.
Mulching is an excellent way of preserving moisture for newly planted trees. A layer of organic mulch around the base of the tree also helps to regulate soil temperature, suppress weed growth, provide nutrients to the tree, and act as a protective barrier against mechanical damage.
It's also aesthetically pleasing. Apply a two to four-inch layer of mulch, keeping it a few inches away from the tree trunk to prevent moisture accumulation and potential rot.
New trees sometimes require staking to stabilize against strong winds or other extreme weather. Generally, a single stake will be sufficient if your tree's trunk is less than five centimetres in diameter. If any bigger, it's advisable to use multiple stakes.
Use flexible materials like tree straps or soft ties to secure the stakes, and ensure they're anchored firmly into the ground by burying them at least 60cm below the planting hole. The stakes should reach no more than two-thirds of the way up the tree's trunk. Avoid tying the tree too tightly, which may hinder its natural movement and restrict root development.
You must remove the staking equipment once the tree is one or two years old (depending on the type of tree) to avoid killing or damaging it. Regularly monitor the tree's growth and remove stakes once the root system is well-established and the tree can support itself.
Newly planted trees do not require fertilizers immediately because their root systems aren't well-developed enough to exploit them. Applying fertilizer too soon can have a negative impact on their growth.
Trees need time to adjust to their new environment and focus on establishing strong roots. It's best to wait until the following growing season before considering the application of a slow-release, balanced fertilizer, considering specific soil and tree species requirements.
Limit Pruning for the First Year
Tree cutting is generally not recommended unless there are damaged or dead branches, as it can divert energy from the tree's developing roots and compromise its ability to establish itself. Once the tree has had time to settle and develop a strong root system, you can consider selective pruning to shape its structure and promote healthy growth.
Ask one of our trained arborists for more information on when to start pruning and how we do it effectively.
Additional Top Tips
- Under no circumstances should you use a string trimmer or lawn mower to trim the grass near a tree trunk, as they can damage the bark and lead to the tree's death.
- Avoid using pesticides near your tree, as the spray can drift easily and cause damage to the leaves or trunk.
- Don't plant flower beds around the tree, as soil above ground can soften its bark and leave it more vulnerable to insects and disease.
The Results Will Be Worth It!
Caring for newly planted trees is crucial for their long-term health and vitality. While it takes time for results to show – particularly results you can see above ground – all your hard work will be worth it when you're rewarded with shade, beauty and environmental benefits.
Don't forget, if you have any questions about new tree maintenance, giving new trees the care they need to thrive, or planting new trees in general, the Green Drop ISA-certified arborists are on hand to help.