So, you’ve got your new tree planted, and you’re just waiting for it to grow and flourish, providing you with shade in the summer, a climbing facility for your kids, and just generally something beautiful to look at whenever you happen to wander over to your window or out into your yard. Of course you want it to be healthy, so how are you going to ensure that?
Basically, it’s three things – water, fertilize and prune. But this is where a lot of people get confused – how much watering? How much fertilizer? And how often to prune?
Okay, these things are really important, so let’s talk in a little more detail.
When you first transplant your tree, you’re going to want to water a lot. Water immediately after planting, and make sure that the tree gets a good soaking. Water is what delivers the soil nutrients to the tree, and allows the leaves to develop. For the first year or so, you should water every four to five days, unless you get good, soaking rains. Following that, you should water at least every week, again assuming that you’re not getting enough rain to keep your tree properly hydrated. After the first few years, your tree will probably be able to manage on its own, unless you end up in severe drought conditions.
If you’re in doubt as to the quality of your soil, an arborist can do a soil test and advise you on the type of fertilizer that is best for your tree. If you prefer to try it on your own, be careful not to overdo it – trees generally don’t need a whole lot of fertilizer, so don’t go with something overly heavy. Look at the numbers on the fertilizer you’re considering purchasing – if the numbers are in the double digits, chances are that it’s too much for your tree. “High number” fertilizers are typically very heavy in nitrogen, and although trees do need nitrogen in order to be healthy, too much can actually be worse than too little. 6-6-4 fertilizer is generally a safe bet.
Not all trees need to be pruned. It really depends on the species, and in fact, most newly planted trees don’t usually need much pruning at all. Ideally, what you’ll do is look at your tree, see if there are broken or dead branches or a lot of leaders, and prune only those areas that are affected. Obviously the dead growth needs to be removed, and if there are too many leaders the central stem won’t grow and develop properly. When in doubt, use a light hand with the pruning. You’re more likely to take off too much than too little. Vigorous pruning should only be considered in the third year of growth in order to encourage good form and healthy development.
Mistakes To Avoid
Often, people make the mistake of doing entirely too much – they think that fertilizing is always helpful, and pruning is always good. And you can even water too much – soaking the roots and encouraging rot. Most of the time, it’s better to do too little than too much. So take it easy, use your common sense, and if you’re in doubt as to what’s best for your tree, call your local nursery or consult an arborist. Properly cared for, your tree will probably live longer than you will, so be careful and give it the best chance.