Grass may be first on your mind when trying to keep your property looking green through the summer, but what about the trees? They undergo the same stresses from heat and drought as your lawn and need some special care to make it through the season. These tips will help you keep them healthy whether they’re mature or recent transplants.
Just like grass, trees can go into hibernation if the heat and lack of water become too stressful, causing it to drop leaves in an attempt to conserve energy. In most cases, the tree just needs more water. A tree will also hibernate if the surrounding soil is compacted or becomes saturated with water. It’s also more likely to hibernate if it doesn’t have the right amount of shade: some trees need to be shielded, while others prefer lots of sun exposure. Unlike grass, it won’t hurt the tree to bring it out of hibernation. If leaves start to fall, go ahead and do what you can to correct the situation.
Using Mulch for Heat and Water Management
Walls, water, glass and hardscaping including decomposed granite and gravel absorb and reflect heat into the tree, heating it up. Replacing these materials where possible with mulch can reduce heat by deflecting it, and can help retain moisture, keeping the tree hydrated.
Follow the “3-3-3” rule: spread a ring of mulch three feet wide and three inches deep around the tree with three inches of space between the mulch and the trunk. When you lay down mulch, try to spread it evenly. “Volcano” mulching, in which mulch is piled up against the tree, can lead to insect infestations, rot and even reduced root growth, making the tree more susceptible to storms.
Trees need water, but if they get too much water, they can be pushed into hibernation: if the soil is soggy, it blocks the flow of oxygen to the roots, halting growth. A tree that is less than three years old needs about one-and-a-half inches of rainfall or 25 gallons of water per week. While you could soak the ground all at once, it’s better if the water is slowly added to the soil to prevent over-saturation. There are three easy ways to do this:
– A slow release water bag holds a whole week of water, slowly releasing it into the soil.
– A 5-gallon bucket can be used the same way as a water bag. Drill a couple holes in the bucket to let water drip into the soil and refill it throughout the week.
– A water hose can be used by opening the spigot just enough for a small trickle of water to run out. Form a berm using the mulch to contain the water and let the hose flow for about a half an hour.
If you are watering with the hose, either with the trickle method or all at once with a sprinkler, dig a small trench in the soil and check for moisture. The ground should be wet to a depth of about two inches below the surface.
Pruning and Sun Scalding
Just as cutting your lawn too short stresses the grass, cutting off limbs stresses the tree as it tries to make repairs. Pruning should be limited to removing limbs that have died or pose a safety hazard. Cut limbs at the branch collar: stubs left over from trimming can rot, opening up the tree to disease, while trimming through the collar can prevent healing. Don’t apply wound dressing to a fresh cut as this can trap bacteria, fungus and even insects, increasing the chance of infections and infestations.
If too much foliage is removed, the bark can be scalded by the sun, leaving it cracked. This opens the tree up to infection, and the dying bark can break off of the tree when winter temperatures make it brittle. Scalded bark should be cut off of the tree and any edges smoothed out. Treat this cut area with a fungicide to prevent infections.
Protecting the Bark
Sun isn’t the only thing that can harm the bark of the tree: when trimming weeds, it’s easy to get a little too close and cut into the bark, limiting the flow of water and nutrients between the roots and the leaves. Tree guards are inexpensive and keep trimmer string and brushcutter blades away from the bark.
Keep Your Equipment in Shape to Prevent Tree Damage
Chainsaws and trimmers need to be kept in good shape to make clean, disease free cuts. Shank’s Lawn Equipment is a certified dealer for a wide range of popular brands including Oregon and Echo Bearcat so we can provide you with the parts and service you need to keep your outdoor power equipment in top condition. Visit us at our shop, located at 4900 Molly Pitcher Hwy, Chambersburg, PA. That’s just off Route 11, one mile east of I-81.
Live in the U.S. or Canada? We can still ship the parts and accessories you need. To order online, visit us at www.shankslawn.com.