Be Kind to Your Trees – By Jenn Stumer – Appalachian Creations Inc.
It may not be easy to hear, but sometimes your best intentions can actually be harmful to your trees. Most of the time, you probably won’t even know if a tree is in trouble or not. Short-term damage is obvious, but long-term damage usually isn’t. And if you don’t know what to look for or how to choose placement, you won’t be able to stop it before it’s too late. So let’s learn how to be kind to your trees. Here are some common ways that trees can be harmed – on purpose:
Staking – This practice seems to come naturally to even the beginning tree planter. Staking can be beneficial when done properly. But it can also be destructive when overdone or not done properly. It’s important to know that most tree species do not need staking and if they do, most of the time only minimal support is needed for a short time. This is the key – if you must stake, be sure to check on the tension periodically to avoid bark damage and remove the staking material when the tree is established (usually within one year). Keep in mind that staking can also cause abnormal trunk growth and girdling and could cause a tree to become top heavy.
Mulching – I am a big fan of mulch rings for trees. It not only looks nice, but it protects the roots and helps hold moisture. It also keeps mowers and trimmers at a safe distance from damaging the bark. But be mindful of the amount of mulch you place at the base of the tree trunk. Applying too much (more than 4”) can hinder root and bark function. One technique is to create a “moat” around the base of the trunk leaving a trench a few inches deep.
Girdling – This is the process of intentionally (or unintentionally) removing or damaging the bark encircling the tree. Lumber companies will intentionally girdle a tree so that it dies and is then cut down for lumber. Examples of unintentional girdling are dog chains looped around the base of a tree, wires for clotheslines, unchecked staking material, and rope (especially nylon). Dog chains rub and saw through the bark from constant movement around the tree. The other materials do not expand along with the tree as it grows and eventually they girdle it. This pressure from the girdling cuts off food and water movement that seriously weakens and could potentially kill the tree. In some instances, the trunk swells, grows over the material and heals back so that it looks like it has survived. However, the damage is done and the trunk is forever weakened at that point.
Power lines – Usually there is a zoning issue when it comes to planting anything under a power line. Don’t take any chances. Eventually the tree will no longer be a sapling and your local power company will have no sympathy when they send their crews to saw off the top of your tree to keep it away from their wires.
Know the tree’s needs – If you are going to plant a tree, be sure to know its space and growth requirements. Some trees can suffer from too much shade or too-wet conditions and vice-versa. It’s also good to know how tall and wide a tree is meant to grow at its full potential. Always avoid planting trees that will outgrow the space provided. Poor tree placement can become a real issue 5 or 10 years down the road. There exists the possibility of damage to building foundations, water and utility lines, and walkways or patios not to mention over-crowding your other ornamental trees or shrubs. Maintenance and/or removal can become costly and time-consuming. Consult your landscaper or garden center if you are not sure of a certain tree’s requirements. It’s very tempting to put those beautiful evergreen trees at the corner of your house not knowing that in 10 years, you won’t even be able to see your house.
Be kind – and plant trees where they belong so they can grow to their full potential and perform as they were meant to.