Stories from the NFCCA Newsletter, the “Northwood News”

Northwood News ♦ October 2014

Maintenance Basics:  Newly Planted Tree Care

By Carole Ann Barth

Caring for newly planted trees is easy, but it’s critically important.  The first three years after planting, your tree is busy growing.  Roots that were confined in a pot or burlapped ball are spreading out and forming partnerships with Mycorrhizae (from myco, meaning fungal, and rhiza, meaning root) which help the tree absorb phosphorus, nitrogen, and moisture.  Give the tree a little bit of help now, and it will reward you for decades to come.

Tree care can be boiled down into three basic tasks:  water, mulch, and inspect.

When to Water.  A newly planted tree requires 1.5 inches of rainfall a week, especially during the warm weather from May through September.  You can get (or make) a rain gauge, keep track of the weather reports, or check the weekly watering advice on Casey Trees’ home page (

How Much to Water.  If there is no rainfall, your tree will need 25 gallons of water per week.

How to Water.  It’s important that the water has a chance to soak in, rather than simply run off.  That means delivering the water slowly.  If your soil is heavy (full of clay) or compacted, watering too quickly will waste lots of water while leaving your tree thirsty.  To test your soil’s compaction level, try inserting a screwdriver into dry ground.  If it goes in without pushing hard or pounding, your soil is not compacted.  (To find out your soil’s clay content, see “For More Information” below.)

There are a number of options for water delivery:

Mulch.  Mulching correctly conserves soil moisture and helps control weeds.  In addition, organic mulches (such as shredded bark or composted leaves) feed the soil as they decompose.  Mulching incorrectly, however, can encourage pests and damage bark.  Do not pile the mulch up around the trunk.  Instead, use the 3-3-3 rule:  three inches of mulch in a three-foot ring with a three-inch space around the tree trunk.  Depending on the type of mulch used, you will need to replace it annually, or in spring and fall.

Inspect.  Is your tree potentially at risk from weed whackers, lawnmowers, deer, or cars?  If so, you will want to put some protection (fencing or stakes) around your tree.  Were any branches damaged during planting?  If so, prune them cleanly back to a bud, branch, or the main trunk.

For More Information

See the following websites:

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