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Hort Shorts: Protect your trees this summer

Hort Shorts: Summer tree care tips

Note: Hort Shorts are horticultural articles from the Newton Tree Board that encourage all citizens to learn, explore and enjoy the many benefits of trees. The articles focus on tree and plant care topics including cultivation, maintenance and dealing with pests.

NEWTON, N.C. – Remember those frigid temperatures we experienced last winter when we were all freezing and waiting for summer to arrive? Well, summer is almost here and we already have hot and humid conditions.

Now is the time to make sure the young trees we just planted—as well as older trees—are in good shape to survive the hot months ahead. Trees feel heat just like we do, so here are a few tips for caring for your trees during the upcoming season:

» Mulch your trees. Mulching helps retain moisture in the soil, helps regulate temperature, adds organic material to the soil, and decreases weed growth around trees. The best mulch material is all-natural wood chips free from dyes and preservatives. Generally, mulch should be spread three to four inches thick and as far out from the base of the tree as you can go. Shaping the mulch like a doughnut around the base of the tree and ensuring that it does not touch the trunk of the tree will allow the tree to breathe and potentially prevent rot.

» Protect the bark. Summer is the season of lawn care, which means buzzing lawnmowers and string trimmers can become trees’ worst enemies. Avoid the bases of your trees while caring for your lawn. Mulching provides a buffer between tree trunks and your grass, making it easier to avoid mishaps that could damage your trees’ bark.

» Water your trees. This final tip is the most important. Trees require regular watering for the first three years after planting. Lack of water is the most frequent cause of tree death, so it is very important to make sure your trees are getting enough water. Trees should receive good, deep soaks. The best way to water your trees is with a soaker hose. Start at the base of a tree and wrap the hose around the tree in a spiral on the ground to water the area surrounding the tree. Water the tree for one hour twice a week. What if it rains? The amount of rainfall may not be enough to satisfy your trees’ water needs, so they may still need additional watering. To determine if a tree needs more water, check beneath the mulch. If the soil is warm and dry, your tree needs a drink. If the soil is moist, check back in a day or two to determine whether to water. Overwatering is just as deadly as under watering, so be sure to check the soil before watering your trees. For mature trees, place a soaker hose under the canopy and leave it on a slow soak for two hours every two weeks. Keep a watchful eye for any signs of stress.

Using these tips should help your trees survive those hot summer days.

water tree