Tiana George is an ISA Certified Arborist and one of the primary consultants for Tree Shepherds. With ongoing education in horticulture, she is a huge advocate of organic gardening and tree care, and believes that urban renewal is not merely good for the environment, it’s good for our minds.
What are some basic tree care practices that will help a tree thrive?
Three practices are vital to a tree’s health and longevity.
- Correct planting
- Correct watering
- And correct soil building
What are some basic guidelines for planting?
1. Choose the right tree species for the site. Native trees are best.
2. Make sure the tree is planted at the right depth. Often developers plant trees too deeply, inhibiting the tree’s growth and overall health.
3. Staking. Staking is important for establishment if you live in a windy area or if the root ball is not secure after planting. Otherwise, staking should be avoided. If stakes are used, they should be removed no more than a year after planting so that the tree is able to form a taper for proper structural integrity.
Why is correct watering important? Isn’t it as simple as watering everyday, especially in the summer?
Most people in Texas over water. Because we live in a region that experiences hot summers, it’s natural to think that your trees are as thirsty as you. But tree roots need oxygen just as much as they need water. So, if you water every day the soil will always be wet. The pore space in the soil will always be filled with water and therefore, there will be no space for oxygen. Excessive watering will lead to root rot and eventually trees dying off.
That’s serious. What are some brief recommendations for watering?
One day a week is ideal. Two days a week, if needed. Allow the water to soak deeply into the soil, during that time. 30-40min of total watering, without runoff.
Avoiding runoff is important. Watch how the water is absorbed. If the water is not being absorbed into the ground, shut it off.
The ultimate goal is to encourage root growth, deep roots. Shallow, brief watering sessions everyday, will only encourage shallow roots, which are prone to disease.
You mentioned soil building. Could you explain that?
Trees draw their nutrients from the soil. So, just like it is important for you to get the right amount of vitamins and minerals from food, so it’s important for trees to get the right nutrients from the soil.
What are a few recommendations for soil care?
Be careful about herbicides. Stick to organic approaches near a tree’s root system, such as mulch.
But, if you must use a chemical herbicide, only use pre-emergent. Any other form of chemical herbicides will attack anything that is not grass, that means your trees. As far as chemical herbicides are concerned, trees are weeds.
Is there something that you can add to the soil to help a tree—whether it is healthy or sick?
Using organic material to feed healthy microbes in the soil helps keep harmful microbes in check in the soil. One inch of compost laid over a tree’s root zone can be helpful.