A newly tranplanted has one primary need: water. As a tree grows taller, its needs change. For example, it will be less sensitive to drought, but may need more attention to maintaining healthy soils and a sound branching structure. A professional arborist will be able to help with long-term care so that the tree can live out its full lifespan. Meanwhile, below are some tips you can follow to care for your tree.
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- Take good care of the soil: follow the guidelines from the soil care
- Examine the tree at least twice a year: in summer, look at the
health of the leaves and lower branches; in late fall, after the leaves have
dropped, look at the structure of the branches.
- As upper branches form, lower ones get shaded out, begin to die, and
fall off. Although this is a natural process, in your yard these lower
branches will need to be pruned properly to control their fall. Most pruning
should be done by your arborist during the dormancy period, in winter.
- Storms may damage trees. Your early work in selection, placement,
and care will help protect the tree. A healthy tree is a strong tree.
- If there is storm damage, have your arborist take care of it. A
broken branch improperly pruned can cause the tree to rot inside, creating a
cavity that will weaken the structure of the tree, making it more vulnerable
to future storms.
- Construction, even simple walkway paving, may damage trees. Take
precautions to protect the trunk, branches, and roots. Damage to the roots,
from either cutting or compaction if equipment is stored or driven over them,
can be devastating for the tree in the long run, and may cause failure years
later. Also, make sure construction does not remove a water source for the
tree, or change the level of the soil.
- If a tree is doing poorly (leaves do not look healthy, fungi is
forming, etc.), consult your arborist to diagnose the problem. It may be from
a living organism, like an insect or plant disease, or it may be a physical
problem, like too much salt. The professional will know whether something can
be or needs to be done about the problem. Some problems go away on their own
or are not serious; some can be solved by changing management practices; some
need to be treated.
- During a drought, do provide extra water for the tree, 15-20 gallons
per week. Be aware that a tree may drop its leaves during a drought but may
- Even if you do not identify a problem, have your arborist inspect
the tree once every 10 years or so. They may be able to see hazards you may
not have recognized and make suggestions for improving care.
- Do not fertilize the tree unless a soil sample indicates that there
is some missing nutrient. Get
more information on soil testing.
- Do not lock bikes to trees or leave decorative lighting on past
Remove supporting wires if they are left on
more than one year after planting.
As a young tree begins to take its mature form, it may require pruning. Pruning tools are sharp and dangerous to use. Pruning done incorrectly can endanger both people and weaken the health of the tree. For a tree in your yard, consult your arborist. Never allow anyone to "top" the tree to reduce its height. Most concerns can be addressed with alternative, proper pruning techniques. Visit the Arbor Day Foundation website for simple pruning instructions.
Street trees and Greenstreets are pruned by the Parks Department. If you want to learn how to prune and earn a certificate that would allow you to prune young NYC street and Greenstreet trees, take the Citizen Pruner course from Trees New York. Only trained professionals should prune mature trees.