Early Spring is the Perfect Time for Tree Care

By Jeff Hansen, President of Hansen?s Tree Service

With the warm weather, the bright sunshine and the green foliage, how can anyone not enjoy springtime? But before you break out the barbeque or get too comfortable relaxing in your yard, there are several tree care steps that must be performed in the early spring to keep your trees looking their best, as well as to prevent disease and storm damage.

A Check-up for your Trees

Inspecting your trees in the early spring is necessary for their general health. The first reason why tree inspection is vital stems from our mild winter. Our warm winter might lead into an early spring, which can jumpstart foliage production. This can be dangerous because spring storms can have more of an impact on leafy, heavy branches, which can increase the likelihood of damage to the trees as well as to property. Also, by checking your trees for signs of disease in the early spring, you will identify the diseased or damaged branches that need to be removed. This can lessen your trees? storm damage risk, and prevent potential harm to people and property.

Walk around your yard and examine each tree?s branches and trunks deadwood, broken branches, cracked and loose bark, wet spots and insect exit holes. Keep an eye out for lesions, which appear on leaves as small, dark circles bordered by yellow halos. It is also important to examine stems and branches for cankers, which are localized disease areas that often appear shrunken or discolored. If you have mulch around the bases of your trees? trunks, remove the mulch and look for signs of rodent damage. Pay attention to tree limbs that extend near your house, and look for older trees that hover over your neighbors? yards. Both scenarios can create lots of damage if your trees fall onto your house or into your neighbor?s property. If your older trees show any signs of disease or damage, prune using proper tools and techniques, which can be found online at the American National Standards Institute (www.ansi.org) and the International Society of Arboriculture (www.isa-arbor.com). However, professional service may be needed for big, mature trees because they are often too dangerous for nonprofessionals to work on, and they do not heal from bad pruning cuts as well as younger trees.

Prune Your Trees into Shape

Pruning encompasses many techniques, including the removal of interior tree growth to increase light penetration and wind circulation. This pruning technique is recommended during the early spring, and can be performed throughout the year. Damaged or broken branches, as well as deadwood, should be removed with sharp, clean tools. Make sure to leave clean cuts at the branch collars to allow the wounds to close properly. Try to avoid leaving stubs or open wounds because they invite insects and disease. Remove one-fourth to one-third of your trees? volume by deadwooding and thinning. This reduces a tree?s weight and wind resistance, decreasing its chance to be damaged in a storm.

Pruning is also important for the health and appearance of flowering trees because it reduces a tree?s stress by removing diseased, dead or broken branches. As a general guideline, it is a good idea to prune flowering trees during the early spring, but they can often be pruned from September until May. Spring flowering trees can be pruned just after they bloom in the early spring, although this removes many beautiful flowers. Summer flowering trees need to be trimmed during early spring to provide a healthy environment for new buds. If a flowering tree is younger than two years, only lightly prune its branches.

One type of pruning that must always be avoided is called ?topping.? This occurs when all parts of a tree beyond a certain height are removed without consideration to the tree’s structure. Topping starves trees since a large percentage of leaves are removed, which normally create food through photosynthesis. These trees try to survive by creating shoots, which can grow up to 20 feet a year and are easily breakable. Not only does topping make trees more vulnerable to insects and disease, but it can lead to cankers, bark splitting, decay and branch death. An alternative to topping is to prune longer branches by cutting them to their lateral branches or to their point of origin.

Mulch & Water: Necessary for Spring Tree Care

Mulching is important in the early spring because it assists the nutrient absorption in trees and helps them retain moisture. Although there are many types of mulch, organic mulch absorbs 20 to 25 percent more nutrients than typical bagged mulch. Before you apply mulch, you must remove turf and weeds from the tree base since they can compete with trees for nutrients. Apply about three inches of mulch to this bare area, and keep the mulch ring somewhat wide.

Another spring tree care step is to make sure that your trees have enough water. It is necessary for trees? leaf and stem growth, and helps trees prepare for a long, dry summer. Begin this spring by watering your trees approximately three times per month at a very slow rate. This allows the maximum penetration of water into the soil and into the roots.

During early spring, pay extra attention to your trees by examining them for signs of disease and damage. You might need to prune your trees, as well as mulch and water them, to get them ready for warmer weather. If you feel overwhelmed or notice something that seems unusual, call your local licensed arborist for diagnosis and treatment. Your trees will not only look well-groomed, but will be less likely to suffer from storm damage, disease or insect infestation.

Jeff Hansen is a certified arborist and is president of Hansen?s Tree Service, a full-service tree and lawn care company that performs diagnosis, treatment, pruning, tree removal, stump removal and lawn care. Hansen?s is fully accredited by TCIA and ISA, and serves residences and companies throughout the entire St. Louis metro area. With nine fully certified arborists on staff, Hansen?s educates the public on the values of proper tree and lawn care, its maintenance and the importance of environmental responsibility.

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