What to do after a tree is planted
Trees in towns are vital links between the built and the natural environment. But being natural doesn’t mean that we can take them for granted. They need to be planned for and given space both above and below ground if they are expected to grow into positive features working in harmony with the urban landscape.
But it’s easy to find dead trees, especially young ones, in gardens or parks, at roadsides and on embankments. These are mostly the result of lack of planning (being in the wrong place or the wrong species) or lack of aftercare.
So what does aftercare involve? As soon as trees are planted they need water. This can be provided by planned irrigation during the first growing season. Most trees will need periodic watering during the spring and early summer when their root systems are struggling to cope in a new, dry environment. New trees, up to 4m in height will need between 1 and 3 litres per day.
But mulching around the tree bases helps conserve the moisture that’s already in the soil. Mulch can be any material that provides this vital function; bark, composted wood chips, gravel, polythene sheeting or pieces of old carpet – they all work by reducing evaporation of water from the soil surface.
Another major benefit of mulching is the effect it has on weeds. By smothering them and making germination difficult mulching reduces competition for water and nutrients in the tree rootzone. Where impermeable mulches are used there needs to be some way to let water through eventually. Usually these mulches are used to limit weed growth for the first couple of years, after this time the tree roots have to fend for themselves. But all this time the trees are using up the soil moisture so, once the trees are settled, it is helpful to remove the impermeable mulch. Permeable mulches, such as bark chips, are beneficial for a much longer time and so should be renewed as they wear away. Even mature trees show improved growth and health when properly mulched.
Once trees are provided with water and the weeds are controlled what else do we need to do? Check stakes and ties.
If trees need support to stand up they should be attached to firmly anchored stakes.
These supports are only meant to be temporary until the tree roots get a hold in the soil and they should be removed after a couple or years, or as soon as is appropriate afterwards. How many trees have been planted and secured to stakes with ties and then not visited again for years? The number is probably in the millions. And most of them have been ruined by damaged bark or defects resulting from these supposed planted aids. Check them annually, make sure the ties aren’t restricting trunk growth and the stakes aren’t rubbing the trunk, and take them away once the tree is well anchored and there ‘s no more rocking of the base.
Ties left too long around trees will stop the trunk expanding and can lead to a weak tree. These ties have been loosened just in time.
And one more thing; a little pruning when the trees are small can avoid major disappointments later on. Get a knowledgeable arborist to carry out formative pruning on the crowns of young trees and you will benefit from the development of a healthy crown and branch structure that won’t let you down later.
Check on these things and the chances of the trees successfully reaching maturity are significantly increased. Forget or neglect them and all that investment in growing, buying and planting could be wasted.Article written by Steve Cox on July 18, 2011