As the weather begins to brighten and the trees start to blossom, it’s safe to say that we are finally in the midst of spring! As such, there’s no better time than now to get outside and prepare your garden for the spring/summer seasons so it can flourish, thrive and achieve its full potential. Whether you are a new homeowner looking to take care of the trees in your yard by yourself, or a landscaper looking for a setlist of what to do – this list will provide you with the guidance and steps that you need.

Springtime is the perfect time to start providing your trees with some extra love and attention. Because they have been essentially asleep for the past three months, as well as having had moisture and debris build upon them, it is vital that your trees are taken care of as early into spring as possible.

Spring Tree Care Tips

Spring tree careSpring has bounded into the Portland area! As blossoms emerge, it’s time to conduct the following basic spring tree care tasks for the long-term health of your trees. So as to give your trees a long, productive growing season, it’s best to complete these tasks early in the season, in March and early April. Let’s take a look at the most effective spring tree care projects Portland homeowners and businesses can tackle to keep trees healthy this year.

Spring Cleaning Begins at Base of the Tree

Remove twigs, leaves, and other detritus that may have accumulated beneath and around trees. Warmer weather signals the time to remove any protective plastic or coverings you may have had in place during the cold winter months. It’s a good idea to rake up any debris that collected underneath or around the tree, like old leaves or fallen fruit because this helps to protect the tree from any diseases or fungi that might be lingering.

Inspect Trees for Damage & Disease

Portland Oregon Sidewalk Shaded by TreesLook for obvious signs of tree disease, including broken branches, holes, molds, and fungi. Also notice which branches do not put out blossoms or leaves—these are likely dead and ready to be pruned away, ideally by a professional Portland tree pruning service, such as Urban Forest Professionals. Winter desiccation, also known as “winter burn,” can occur when plants dry out in cold winter conditions. Winter sunscald is another challenge; it manifests as vertical cracks in tree bark. The discoloration is another clue that something may be amiss. For instance, some plants will yellow if they receive too much water.

If you have questions about damage, call an experienced arborist for sound information. Our Portland ISA-certified arborists can recommend when to remove branches, when to add supportive cables, and when it’s best to remove the whole tree, rather than risk it crashing down in the next storm.

Plant New Trees in Spring

Trees bring dozens of benefits to your home or business! They reduce noise levels, stabilize soil, and give wildlife a place to perch. Trees also increase property values while decreasing energy costs. Spring is a good time to add trees to your property, as their roots will have enough time to dig in before scorching summer temperatures hit. Of course, every tree species has its own preferences, so feel free to contact us with questions about the best time to plant a new tree.

Mulch trees and water

Mulching trees in spring helps them thrive all year

Next, apply some mulch. Mulching trees helps to suppress weeds and retain moisture. It’s most important when you’re dealing with young trees (less than 10 years old), but older trees can benefit as well. The layer of mulch should be two to three inches thick and a couple of feet wide. Don’t let it touch the trunk directly, though, because this gives diseases an easy point of access. Leave an inch or two clear.

Don’t water the tree until the soil thaws, or else you’ll just create runoff. Don’t let the tree dry out even when the weather is cool, though. You might have to water a few times a day. Deeply water any trees near areas where deicing materials were used. Watering it well helps to wash away the salt and minerals. Finally, adjust your sprinklers so they don’t create puddles or spray the leaves—wet foliage encourages disease.

Fertilize Trees

Fertilization can also be done in the spring months. Fertilizer is a good idea whenever soil lacks the macronutrients and micronutrients that trees need to thrive. To figure out if an established tree needs fertilization, observe its shoot growth, i.e., the growth that happens in a single year. In general, shoot growth of fewer than 2 inches indicates a fertilizer may be required. Of course, certified arborists take many other factors into account when prescribing the best fertilization approach.

Beyond soil testing, foliage color and the history of the yard should also be considered. As far as timing goes, it’s ideal to provide slow-release fertilizer prior to the tree’s springtime growth spurt. While fertilization timing varies by location, by soil conditions, and by species, a good rule of thumb is to apply fertilizer as soon as the ground is workable in the spring.

Importance of Fertilizing Portland trees in spring

Tree Planting Aftercare, fertilizing treesSpring tree fertilization is common as most trees have their greatest need for nutrients in the spring. In Portland, this spring application usually happens in March or April as, rainy, cold weather wanes and sunny weather begins to show its face. Trees in the city need fertilization because many of the natural processes that take place to add nutrients to the soil are disrupted. Leaves and other debris are cleaned up before they can be re-incorporated into the soil. Soil is often compacted so many nutrients are washed away as urban runoff. Also, the presence of pollutants can strip nutrients from the soil or disrupt their absorption.

If your tree is having health issues, fertilization is likely an important part of getting that tree back into tip-top shape, but you need to be sure that the problem that caused the tree to be unhealthy has been resolved. A Certified Arborist can help you identify and diagnose health issues. Trees are similar to humans in that when we are sick good nutrition can go a long way to getting us back on our feet, but in some cases, additional medicine or other interventions are required to achieve and maintain our health.

We use two basic types of fertilizers for trees

  1. Chemical: This is your basic man-made chemical fertilizer. There are several reputable brands which have developed formulations made specifically for either Deciduous or Evergreen trees, and for application in either the spring or the fall. Two of the most popular brands are Jobes and Phc for trees. Jobes is a good quality one that has an organic option and is available at most Home Depot stores. Phc is a little harder to find but has excellent proven results and is what many professional arborists use.
  2. Natural Mix: For us this is a compost tea mixed with Mycorrhizal Fungi. This fertilizer combination is a more organic option that mimics nature. The Mycorrhizal Fungi helps with the absorption of the nutrients and, we have seen great results with their use of urban trees. This application is somewhat custom and cannot be bought off of the shelf.

Fertilization options for trees also come is several application options. Fertilizer is most cases can’t be just spread on the ground surrounding the tree. It needs to be inserted under the soil 6”-12” down into the root zone of the tree. Those application options are:

  1. Tree Spikes: These are the most common option for a DIY fertilizer application. Tree spikes are soil form fertilizer which is formed in a spike shape which can be driven into the ground by hand (of at least in theory they can).
  2. Deep Root Fertilization: This is a liquid fertilizer pumped into the soil using a long wand attached to a commercial pump. This method is favored by professional arborists.
  3. Injections: Fertilizer applications can be injected directly into the tree, but this is usually only done in extreme cases or when the tree is also receiving another type of injection.

Maintaining your trees is, of course, a year-round job, but taking big steps to ensure their health in the early spring will set them up for a great year! Each season comes with its own tasks and chores, so make sure you are taking care of your trees every day, all year.

With these tips and the help of Arborist Now, your trees should be happy, healthy and thriving this season!

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