Spring comes and goes quickly here in Texas, so we have a small window for spring tree care. But even though the window is small, we must take the time to prepare our trees for the long hot summer.
By doing your due diligence in the spring, not only are you setting them up for a healthy summer but by inspecting trees and addressing potential problems now, you are safeguarding your investments against future issues.
- Leaf canopies have not completely filled in, which means you can see the trunk and branches more clearly, making winter storm damage more apparent.
- Checking trees for signs of disease and pruning in the spring lessens the damage risk from late spring and summer storms.
- But maybe the most important reason: It’s not too hot yet!
In this post, we will cover all the spring tree care basics, including:
- Tree health inspection
- Planting new trees
1. Tree Health Inspection
Start by taking a walk around your property. On your walk, inspect each tree from root to leaf. If you start at the bottom and work to the top with each tree, you will be less likely to miss something. Here is what you are looking for:
If you see fungus or mushrooms growing on large anchoring roots, around the base of the trunk, or even on the soil surrounding the tree, make a note.
Fungus may indicate decay. If you see cavities or hollows at the base of the tree or in large roots, this is also a red flag. If you notice cracked or raised soil on one side of a tree trunk, your tree may be starting to lean. Also, note that new construction or anything else that might compact the soil may have affected roots negatively.
If you see cavities or cracks, oozing wounds, or sunken or missing bark, make a note. These can be signs of structural weakness, infection, or decay.
Once again, look for any mushrooms or fungus growing on the trunk as these can also be signs of decay. It’s crucial to catch these signs early as the exterior of a tree may appear relatively healthy while the interior may be soft, rotted, or even empty.
Take note of any cracks where branches attach to the trunk. These could break off and cause harm to your property or your neighbor’s property. Broken or dangling branches need to be noted and attended to as soon as possible.
Missing bark or fungal growth can be signs of decaying wood and potential structural problems. Check for cankers. These localized disease areas often appear shrunken or discolored.
As spring progresses, your trees should leaf uniformly with healthy-looking foliage. If you notice uneven coloring or slow growth, these may be signs of nutrient deficiencies that may need to be corrected.
Keep an eye out for signs of insect damage, which could indicate an insect infestation. And check for lesions. These usually appear on leaves as small, dark circles bordered by yellow halos.
You can reference our Tree Damage post for more detailed information about damage, disease, and administering tree first aid. If you see symptoms that could diminish a tree’s stability, find an ISA Certified Arborist who can diagnose any problems, and implement solutions.
The odds are high that you noted broken or damaged branches on your walk. This is expected. It’s natural for winter weather to take a toll on trees. This is nature’s way of clearing out the old to make room for the new. But sometimes nature needs some help, especially large dead branches are hanging menacingly over your house.
Pruning does two things: It gets rid of dead or diseased branches that could cause problems in the future. And it supports your tree’s health by reducing the resources that these branches are taking away from other parts of the tree. Pruning can also improve the appearance of a tree.
Pruning guidelines and suggestions
- Prune trees that bloom in spring when their flowers fade.
- Prune trees and shrubs that flower in mid- to late summer in winter or early spring.
- Damaged or broken branches should be removed with sharp, clean tools.
- Leaving stubs or open wounds invite insects and disease.
- Clean cuts at the branch collars allow the wounds to close properly.
- Remove interior tree growth to increase light penetration and wind circulation.
- Deadwooding and thinning reduce a tree’s weight and wind resistance, which decreases its chance of being damaged in a storm.
- If a flowering tree is younger than two years, only lightly prune its branches.
- If you have trees with a lot of damage or seem unstable, contact an arborist.
Do Not Top Your Trees!
Topping is when all parts of a tree beyond a certain height are removed without considering the tree’s structure. This technique can starve trees because a large percentage of food-producing leaves are removed.
When topped, trees try to survive by growing shoots, which can grow up to 20 feet a year. These shoots are easily breakable. Topping makes trees vulnerable to insects and disease and can lead to cankers, bark splitting, decay, and branch death.
The temptation may be to give your trees a good spring soak. Deep watering is recommended to prevent the growth of weak surface roots, but just as too little water can harm a tree, so can too much water.
The best way to know if you are overwatering is to feel the ground to see if it is moist or soggy. You want it to be moist, not soggy. Moist soil takes a short period to dry and allows adequate oxygen to permeate the soil.
To check soil moisture, insert a garden trowel two inches into the ground. Create a little trench by moving the trowel blade back and forth. Touch the soil. If it is moist to the touch, then do not water. If the soil is dry to the touch, you need to water.
Now is also the time to inspect and repair your irrigation system if you have one. If you aren’t sure how to inspect the system, we’ve got you covered. This is also the perfect time to update an existing system or install a new one!
Do a Deep Clean
Are there a lot of weeds growing around the base of your trees? How about debris? Now is the time to give that an area a deep clean. Ideally, you need to remove all competing plants and debris within the drip line. Why?
- You don’t want your trees to have to compete with weeds for water and vital nutrients. Pulling those weeds while the ground is still moist from the spring rains will save you a lot of time and frustration later.
- Competing plants like ivy and lawn grass can hide areas of decay and trap moisture around the root crown, which creates the perfect environment for fungus.
- You may be surprised to learn that garbage collects under ivy, which creates a breeding ground for rats, so get that ivy tamed!
Mulching in the early spring assists with nutrient absorption and moisture retention. In general mulch also
- insulates the soil which provides a buffer from heat and cold
- keeps weeds out which decreases root competition
- prevents soil compaction
- reduces the risk of lawn mower damage
Before you add mulch, you need to remove any old mulch whose lifespan has come to an end, remove weeds and turf, and discard any other debris.
Depending on the size of the tree, the area you clear should be anywhere from 2-10 feet around the base of the tree.
After you clear the circle, add mulch at a depth of 2-4 inches around the tree. Protect the root crown by keeping the trunk of the tree and the root crown clear of mulch.
Now is also the time to apply a slow-release fertilizer. Doing this before peak growing season ensures that any nutrient deficiencies will be rectified and will encourage lush, beautiful growth and luscious blooms.
6. Planting New Trees
Fall and spring are excellent times to plant new trees. But here’s a secret: the selection of plants available is better in the spring.
When choosing what trees to plant in your yard, consider the following:
- What kind of soil type you have in your yard?
- What kind of sun exposure will the tree get?
- How much space will the tree have to grow and thrive?
- How do you want the tree to serve your landscape? Is shade important? Do you want beautiful blooms?
We Can Help!
An ISA Certified Arborist is an excellent resource when it comes to choosing new trees for your landscape. In fact, a Certified Arborist can help you with all of your spring tree needs.
If you need assistance with your trees this spring, our team at Complete Landscultpure is at your service. Contact us today for a consultation!