Five Top Tree Care Tips for Summer
Do trees like the summer as much as we humans do? They will if we take proper care of them. Every season has its own unique effect on trees, including our hot summers, so it’s especially important to pay attention to the do’s and don’ts of proper care during June, July, August and September. The following are some of our top tips on how to keep your trees healthy during the warmest months of the year.
- Help trees keep their cool
Did you know that hardscaping materials surrounding trees can intensify heat? It’s true, and it is an important reason why the choice of landscaping material should be carefully considered. For example, decomposed granite (often used as mulch under or around trees) makes radiant heat more intense because it absorbs the heat and sun and then reflects it. Other heat “sponges” for trees include block walls, structures, glass, and water surfaces, which all absorb and reflect the sun in hotter months. Too much heat can stress otherwise healthy trees.
- Pay attention to fallen twigs and leaves
If your tree begins to shed twigs or leaves during the summertime, it’s trying to talk to you. While this is a normal process in the fall, it’s a reaction to stress in the summer. Technically, this is known as “summer dormancy,” “summer leaf drop,” and/or “cladoptosis”, and it commonly appears in birch, maples, willows, hackberry, and western red cedar tree species. If this is happening outside your window, there are a few potential explanations:
Your tree may be reacting to soil compaction;
You may have planted a shade-loving tree in the direct sun (or the reverse scenario);
You may have saturated soil;
Or, more than likely, heat and/or drought is the culprit.
The good news is that proper watering should help bring the tree back to health. But remember, planting your tree in the right spot at the get-go will minimize any health issues down the road.
- Water your tree in the right way!
While it is best to plant a new tree in the spring or fall, you can do it in the summer – if you are dedicated to watering consistently. Summer planting poses a greater risk of damage to transplanted trees. During the first few years, your tree is using up a great deal of energy trying to establish its roots, and thereby making it more vulnerable to heat and droughts. Deep watering (keeping the soil moist to a depth that includes all the roots) is crucial to helping the development (and speed) of root establishment.
How much water is too much? You might be surprised to learn that overwatering is a fairly common tree care mistake. The rule of thumb is to avoid causing soggy soil. The goal is to have damp soil that dries in a short period and will allow enough oxygen into the soil. You can usually achieve this with a steady stream of water from a garden hose for about 30 seconds; a diffuser nozzle is best for tree seedlings. If you want a more accurate read, insert a garden trowel into the ground about 2 inches deep, moving the blade back and forth to establish a small trench. Put your finger in the hole: if the soil is damp, you won’t need to water; if it’s dry, however, you will. After a couple years, the root system of your tree becomes established enough to allow it to better withstand a hotter and drier summer.
- Let mulch do some heavy lifting
Mulch is a great addition to landscaping since it can help retain moisture. This makes mulch especially helpful for new and transplanted trees. The reason for this is that mulch acts as a natural buffer from both drastic hot and cold temperature changes that we Mainers experience each year. It also prevents soil compaction, keeps the weeds out by helping prevent root competition, and helps minimize damage from lawnmowers and string trimmers. To correctly mulch around a tree, remove any grass within a 3 to 10 foot area surrounding the base (depending on your tree size), and pour natural mulch, such as bark or wood pieces, within this circle. The depth of the mulch should be about 2 to 4 inches, but be careful to keep the mulch from touching the trunk of the tree.
- To prune or not to prune …
Summer pruning is often done for corrective purposes, especially since the warmer months make for easy identification of defective limbs. Summer pruning is sometimes used to “dwarf” the development of a branch or tree.
However, use caution when considering pruning in the summer. Leaves keep trees cool, and too much pruning can put the tree into stress. In addition, if you prune a tree too drastically, you could expose the tree bark to intense sun creating a condition known as ‘sun scalding’. Younger and thinner trees are especially susceptible to sun scalding, and excessive heat can actually kill the entire tree or its limbs. Remember: trees rely on leaves for food production and shade in the hotter months, so please make sure they have what they need to thrive!
It’s important to look at why you feel the need to prune in the summer, or in any season. If you feel a tree is getting too large, it may simply be the wrong species of tree for your yard. Or, your over-watering and over-fertilizing may be putting the tree into growth overdrive.
As a rule of thumb, limit your summer pruning to dead/broken branch removal, especially if it’s posing a threat to your property or people. Keep in mind that regular pruning is not always necessary every year. When it doubt, call a tree service pro.
Let us handle your summer tree services!
If you are more interested in using your summer weekends to hit the beach or host a BBQ, we don’t blame you! You can rely on our expert tree services to get the job done. After an on-site visit, we can help determine any seasonal tree services that you may need, in the summer and throughout the year.
Talk with a BJS Tree Service expert for all your tree