You love your trees (what’s not to love?). We get that. We also know that you are truly doing everything you think is right to help them grow and thrive. And why wouldn’t you? Trees are the anchor of the landscape. They also improve the value of your home. Trees take a long time to grow and it would be a shame to have to start growing new ones. It can take years, if not decades, for a new tree to gain a desirable size.
But what if the things you are doing actually cause harm to your prized trees. There are a lot of “old truths” still floating around out there and many of them, according to new thoughts and research, actually do more harm than good. The following points are to help you stop doing these practices and help you properly care for your trees.
Applying pruning paint to pruning cuts, or even to damaged areas of trees, used to be very in fashion. It was thought that pruning paint would keep insects and diseases out of the open wound and even help the tree heal faster. This is not true. Trees are very adept at healing wounds themselves. Pruning paint only impedes this process. It actually makes it harder for the tree to seal off the wounds as most pruning paints are petroleum products which can damage living tissues.
The proper place to prune a tree limb is just outside the collar where it attaches to the main trunk or to a larger limb. The collar is the slightly swollen area at the connection. It is from the collar that a tree can best heal a pruning wound. Above all else, do not prune off the collar.
Never leave a stub by pruning in the middle of a branch. This area cannot heal quickly and could easily become an entry point for insect or diseases.
Staking New Trees
Staking young trees, in most cases, is not necessary and can actually slow down the young tree’s development. Staking keeps the tree from swaying in the wind. This builds up the tree trunk’s strength and resilience faster. If a tree is staked, it may be brittle and will not be as strong when the stakes are removed.
If, however, the tree is going to be planted in a high wind situation, staking may be warranted. If it is, be sure to remove the guy wires within six months to avoid girdling of the tree trunk.
Pruning At Wrong Time Of Year
Most people think that trees can be pruned at any time of the year but this is far from correct. While it is always okay to prune broken, dying or diseased limbs, or to prune off low limbs for safety’s sake, pruning while the tree is actively growing can do harm and cause stress.
The tree’s main job during the growing season is to grow and produce seeds. When a tree is pruned, it must put energy towards healing the wound, which takes energy away from growth and reproduction. Furthermore, pruning cuts made during the growing season quite often causes sap to leak from the cut. This sap can attract insects that can do harm to the tree.
The correct time to prune a tree is in the winter. At this time of year, the tree is dormant and not growing. Additionally, from a pragmatic standpoint, it is a lot easier to see what really needs to be pruned with no leaves on the tree.
Volcano mulching is the practice of over mulching a tree and piling the mulch up against the tree trunk, resembling a volcano. Mulching trees is a good thing to do because mulch insulates the roots, helps keep moisture in and protects the trunk from being damaged by mowers and string trimmers. Too much mulch prevents the root system from getting water and air. It can actually suffocate the tree. Piling mulch against the trunk creates and opportunity for the tree trunk to root, which will also allow insects easy entry into the tree. This practice also encourages a shallow root system, causing the tree to be less resilient.
A 2”-3” layer of much is all that is needed to help the tree thrive. Any mulch in excess of this should be removed. Be sure to not let the mulch touch the tree trunk by simply pulling it away from the wood.
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