In the Garden
Caring for your trees
With the arrival of fall, days will soon be getting noticeably shorter and nighttime temperatures will begin to fall.
Now, as your trees begin responding to the changing conditions, you can take a number of proactive steps to care for them and help ensure they will be healthy and beautiful for years to come.
“It’s a good idea to think about the health of your trees in fall,” says certified arborist Jason Anderson, co-owner of Arborscapes LLC. Anderson conducts the training on trees for Master Gardeners in Henrico, Chesterfield, and Goochland/Powhatan.
He advises starting by taking a good, long look at your trees. Notice whether there are dead branches – which are much easier to identify while the leaves are still on the tree. Some dead branches are normal, but if more than roughly 10% -- the amount varies by tree type – is dead, you may want to consider talking to a certified arborist.
Look again when the leaves start to fall to make sure all your deciduous trees of the same species are dropping their leaves at roughly the same time. “If one is dropping its leaves earlier, it can be a sign that the tree is stressed,” says Anderson.
Checking trees of like species again next spring to see if they bud at roughly the same time can also help you tell if you have a tree that is stressed.
“An important thing to remember,” says Anderson, “particularly if you have a mature tree is that the tree may not show signs of distress for two or three years following the event that causes the stress.”
After looking up, look down to check the mulch around your trees.
“Mulching is one of the best things you can do for your trees,” says Anderson, “provided you do it properly.”
Mulch around trees should be no more than 2-3 inches deep and should never be piled up against tree bark at the base of the tree. Make the ring of mulch as large as you can up to the dripline or end of the branches of the tree.
Good mulch materials include aged sawdust, shredded pine bark, or wood chips.
“It’s important not to over mulch,” says Anderson. “And you need to remember that mulch goes over the roots, but not on the trunk of the tree.”
Mulch adds organic matter to the soil around the tree and helps keep soil temperatures warmer, allowing tree roots to continue to grow later into the fall. Once winter arrives, mulch helps reduce alternate freezing and thawing that heaves soil and can cause damage to young roots.
Mulching also reduces water loss and helps maintain uniform soil moisture around tree roots.
“Grass roots compete with tree roots for water,” says Anderson. “Mulching eliminates the competition.”
Fall and winter when trees are dormant are also ideal times to do any pruning that may be needed. “Structural and formative pruning on trees less than ten years old can help eliminate problems in the future,” explains Anderson. “And older trees may need deadwood removed to improve their structure and reduce liability during bad weather.”
Citizen Staff Reports 07/18/2016
It’s a great weekend to get outside! The Pocahontas Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society is offering two events this weekend. Accompany the group to find and document native plants present and blooming in Echo Lake Park on Saturday or take a “Sunday Stroll” at Dorey Park to observe the seasonal changes taking place. Other outdoor events this weekend include the final summer concert at West Broad Village and “Fridays on the Patio” at James River Cellars Winery in Glen Allen. If you’re going to be outside, don’t forget the insect repellent! To learn more about avoiding those pesky mosquitos, check out Henrico County’s “Fight-the-Bite TODAY” event tomorrow. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
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Aug. 18, 2016Click here to read the print edition.
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