3 Biggest Tree Care Mistakes by Homeowners

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3 Biggest Tree Care Mistakes by Homeowners

In Southwest Texas, mid- to late January is the best time to prune or trim trees. Improper tree care can lead to even bigger, long-term problems and often times death. Trees provide us with so many benefits that it’s well worth the time, money, and effort to care for and maintain them. Here are the top 3 biggest tree care mistakes we see with homeowners.

1. Over or Under Watering. 

It can be difficult to tell if your tree is getting over or under watered. If tree’s are being under or over watered, it’s likely that the problem will continue until it’s too late.

An easy way to check your trees water store is to take a long screwdriver and stick it in the soil under the tree canopy. If you have a difficult time with this — it’s likely your tree is under watered. Another option is to dig ~6-8” deep below the tree canopy and check the moisture of the soil. At this depth, it should be cool and moist. If it’s soaking wet, it’s very likely the tree is being overwatered.

In addition, there are easy to identify signs and symptoms a tree will show if they are being under or over watered.

Signs tree(s) are under watered:

  • Premature fall coloration
  • Dropping leaves
  • Yellowing of the leaves
  • Sun scorch
  • Wilted foliage
  • Sparse tree canopy

Symptoms of overwatered tree(s):

  • Regularly wet soil under the tree canopy
  • New growth starts to decay before fully grown or turns a light green or yellow
  • Leaves seem green but are delicate and break

2. Burying the Root Flare.

Root flare is the area at the base of a tree where the trunk changes from trunk to bark tissues into root system tissues. Roots should be growing outward from the base of a tree at the same level as the surrounding soil or slightly above it. This creates a “flare” of roots that should always be exposed and never covered.

that should always be exposed and never covered with soil or other materials.

How root flares can get buried: altering the ground grade; burying trees too deep, or settling in the planted hole; excessive mulch or soil. The root flare is the transition zone between the trunk and the roots and maintaining this zone is critical for the long term structural and biological integrity of the tree. 

When a tree’s root flare is covered by too much soil or mulch, it traps moisture against the bark. Eventually leading to decay, rot and/or tree failure. This part of the tree is not like roots and is vulnerable to excess moisture. When water saturates the bark it restricts the flow of oxygen and carbon dioxide in and out of the inner bark (phloem). Over time, this gas transfer deficiency will start to kill inner bark cells and hinder the flow of photosynthate (energy generated from photosynthesis). This damage caused from decay to the inner bark attracts disease and pests to the tree

3. Poor Pruning.

Pruning is performed for many reasons:

  • To help train the plant
  • Help with the plants structure
  • Maintain plants overall health
  • Improve the quality of flowers, fruit and/or foliage
  • To regulate growth

When executed properly, pruning is a highly beneficial horticultural practice.

Wounding a tree due to poor pruning cuts can leave them vulnerable to diseases and pests which often cause the tree to fail and ultimately die.

Most Common and Injurious Pruning Practices:

  • Bad Timing: there are good times to prune and bad times to prune — depending on the species and condition of the tree.
  • Tree Topping: the practice of removing whole tops of trees or large branches and/or trunks from the tops of trees, leaving stubs or lateral branches that are too small to assume the role of a terminal leader.
  • Excessive Pruning: No more than about 15% to 20% of a mature trees foliage should ever be trimmed off a trees canopy in on year. In fact, 5%-10% is usually enough. It’s essential for the overall health of the tree and to have enough time to recover.
  • Improper Pruning Cuts: a very common tree trimming mistake when clearing branches.

Types of Improper Pruning Cuts:

  • Flush Cutting: when a branch is flush cut to the joining stem.
  • Stub Cutting: when a branch is pruned too far from the stem, leaving a branch stub. In this case, the branch tissue usually dies, which stops the healing process, leaving the tree open to disease and/or pests. Branch stubs can also cause structural damage such as wood cracking, and bark tearing.
  • Lopping: the random cutting of tree branches to stubs or lateral branches that are not large enough to assume the terminal or main growth point role.
  • Bark Tearing: when large branches are not removed properly causing heavier branches to break off. Tearing or splitting of the tree trunk could also ensue.

If you have any additional questions, or you’re interested in one of our tree services, contact us today.

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