In the Douglas County Extension office this year, over 50% of the calls and emails to the Master Gardeners and I have been residents concerned about their trees. From the Cold Snap event last November, to the Mother’s Day freeze, to our hot and dry August/September weather where many areas didn’t receive more than a few drops of rain, trees along the Front Range have had their share of adverse growing conditions. We can’t control the weather, but we can control how we care for our trees this fall and winter. Here are some tips:
1. Mulch: Wood/bark-chip mulch is highly recommended on newly planted trees as well as existing landscape trees. Trees with a mulch ring typically have 20% more early growth compared to trees where turf grows up to the trunk. This is due to the lack of competition with the grass and/or weeds. In a landscape setting, the mulch ring is typically two to four feet wide or up to the width of the drip line (spread of branches) for young trees. Wood chip mulch three to four inches deep conserves moisture, gives better weed control and prevents soil compaction by foot traffic. On newly planted trees, do not mulch over the root ball. On established trees, keep mulch at least six inches from the trunk. Never pile mulch up against the trunk, since wet mulch can lead to bark decay or cover for mice, voles and other animals to feed on bark under mulch. Mulch also protects the trees from lawn mower and weed eater injury. For more information on mulch, click here.
|Photo: CSU Extension|
2. Trunk wrap for newly planted trees: Use tree wrap on young, recently planted trees that have not developed protective bark (Maple trees are especially prone to winter bark injury). Use tree/trunk guards to protect young trees from mechanical and animal damage. Apply tree wrap around mid-November; remove in April. For more information, click here.
|Photo: Gardener's Edge|
3. Pruning: Pruning dead or broken branches is fine any time of year, including fall. Extensive structural pruning of live branches is not recommended at this time. Fall pruning may stimulate late-season growth which could make the tree susceptible to freezing injury. Structural pruning for most trees is best performed in late winter, before trees break dormancy. Click here for more information.
|Photo: tree removal.com|
4. Fall and Winter Watering: During times of low precipitation, watering trees is necessary in our dry climate. Water trees when there isn’t snow cover and daytime temperatures reach in the 40-50°F range. Once a month should be enough. When the sprinkler system has been turned off, using hoses and sprinklers may be necessary. Make sure you check with your municipality to see if there are any water restrictions. For more information, check out the Fact Sheet here.
|Photo: Sacramento Tree Foundation|