Homeowner's Guide For Beautiful, Safe And Healthy Trees
THE REAL CAUSE OF MANY TREE PROBLEMS
Insects and microorganisms are not the real cause or starting point of many tree problems. These organisms are often secondary agents that attack weakened, wounded, improperly treated, neglected, and generally unhealthy trees. Poor tree health is a major worldwide problem. Fighting the secondary agents that are often very obvious, or the symptoms of poor health, will not solve the basic problem. We must start now to attack the real causes: the stating points of poor health. The major organisms responsible are PEOPLE
! Once we recognize that we are often the problem, we can do much to solve it.
Here are some brief guidelines for you, the homeowner that will help you keep your trees beautiful, safe, and healthy.
"We have met the enemy; and he is us!" Pogo
GIVE TREES A GOOD START
Plant the right tree in the right place. Do not plant:
- pin oaks in alkaline soils
- trees in old alkaline building rubble
- willow in dry soils, pines in wet soils
- birches in shade, dogwoods in unprotected open sites
Learn the biological requirements of your trees.
Do not plant unless you plan to maintain.
- crowd trees in small holes with compacted soil
- over-amend the soil with humus
- fertilize at planting time
- prune dead and dying branches and roots.
Keep Grass Away
- water grass heavily near trees that normally grow on dry sites
- lime grass heavily near trees that grow best in acid soils
- wound trees with lawnmowers and other machines
- Heavy use of herbicides may harm trees.
Brace, But Not Too Tightly
- tie young trees so tightly that they do not move
- leave braces on after tree is established
- kill bark with cords, wires, bands, etc.
- allow anyone to climb your tree with spikes
- allow heavy construction machines near your tree
- park cars near trees
Correct pruning is the best thing you can do for your tree.
- make flush cuts behind the branch bark ridge (BBR)
- leave living or dead stubs
- injure or remove the branch collar
- paint cuts
The best time to prune living branches is late in the dormant season or very early in spring before leaves form.
Dead and dying branches can be pruned anytime.
Use sharp tools! Make clean cuts.
Be careful with all tools.
ToppingTopping trees is a serious injury regardless how it is done.
Avoid it if possible by starting to prune early in the life of the tree to regulate its size and shape.
If you must top cut, do not leave a stem stub. Do not paint the cut. Know your safety limits - call professionals when the job is too big for you.
Wound Dressings Do Not Stop Rot
- apply house paints or wood preservatives
- apply heavy coats of any material
Research shows that wound dressings do not stop decays or stall rot. Trees have been responding effectively to their wounds for over 200 million years. Do not interfere with this natural process. Keep your tree healthy and it will take care of its wounds. In a short time the wound surface will blend perfectly with the tree bark.
If trees are wounded,
- remove injured bark with a sharp knife. Make cuts as shallow as possible. Forming an elongated ellipse is not necessary.
- Make all margins rounded; do not point tips.
- Do not enlarge the wound.
- Do not paint.
- Do everything possible to maintain health - water, fertilize, prune.
Holes For Draining Water
Do not bore holes to drain water from cavities. Drain tubes may be used for wetwood materials, but such treatment will increase the column of internal wetwood.
If cavities are to be filled, do not clean so thoroughly that the boundary between decayed wood and sound wood is broken. Fill with nonabrasive materials. Leave for professionals.
Injections and Implants
If you plan to have chemicals injected or implanted in your trees, make certain that it is done only by highly skilled professionals. Check injection and implant holes after one season to make certain they are closed. Injection and implant holes should be very small and shallow at the tree base, not in the roots.
Cable and Brace
If rot is present, put rods entirely through the stem, and use round or oval washers on both sides. Washers should be seated on the wood, not deep in the wood or on the bark. Cables should allow tree to move slightly. Leave to professionals.
HELP TREES STAY HEALTHY
Before you fertilize or consider treatments for microelement problems, have a soil test done. Your tree may require soil acidification before fertilization, or treatment for microelement problems. Fertilizers add elements essential for healthy growth. Fertilizers are not tree food!
Trees get their energy from the sun. Leaves and needles trap energy in a molecule of sugar. Sugar is tree food. Keep leaves and needles healthy by timely treatments so trees can get their food. Keep soils free of compaction so roots can get water and essential elements. Do not over fertilize.
Some insects and microorganisms do start tree problems.
Check For Potential Hazards:
- large dying and dead branches
- rot in roots and base (fruit bodies of fungi are signs of rot)
- large deep vertical cracks on opposite sides of trunk
- Be on alert 5 to 10 years after construction. Have hazardous tree crowns reduced by professionals.
DON’T FORGET WILDLIFE.
They need living and dead trees for survival. Consider them in your plans.
Learn about trees.
Prepared by: Dr. Alex L. Shigo, Plant Pathologist, USDA Forest Service Northeastern Forest Experiment Station, Durham, New Hampshire, 03824.