Establishing a summer tree care plan is essential to keeping trees healthy during hot days, droughts, and summer storms. Follow these tree care tips to make sure your trees are getting the support they need to survive and thrive throughout the summer.

Mulching. Most trees love oxygen-rich soil full of organic debris and nutrients, but this forest-like environment is not typically found in our backyards or in urban landscapes. Mulch mimics this ideal habitat for trees and provides a host of essential benefits to trees in the summer. Mulching will help to:

  • Retain soil moisture
  • Suppress weed growth
  • Cut down on competition for water with grass or other vegetation
  • Remove the need to mow near the trunk, which will protect the root system, an education site managed by the International Society of Arboriculture, recommends putting down no more than two to four inches of mulch. Also, avoid piling mulch up against the root flare, the portion where roots begin to fan out from the trunk. Mulch should ideally cover the entire area underneath the canopy.

Fertilizing. Slow-release fertilizer should be given to trees in early spring, which will provide benefits until the next treatment in the fall. Fertilizers are labeled by three sequential numbers. The first number represents nitrogen content, followed by the phosphorous content and ending with the potassium content. Consult with a professional arborist who can perform a soil analysis test and determine the appropriate fertilizer ratio and dosage for your trees.

Watering. The amount of water to give a tree depends on the soil type, recent weather conditions, the age and type of the tree, and nearby vegetation that could compete for water. Intense heat during the summer can often evaporate water before it’s able to be taken in by the roots. Keep the following points in mind when watering your trees:

  • The Georgia Forestry Commission recommends watering at night or in the early morning when it’s cooler, which will limit water loss through evaporation.
  • While there are many delivery methods suitable for trees, water should be delivered slowly to give the roots enough time to soak it up, particularly in sandier soils that drain quickly.
  • Give your trees lots of water periodically to encourage a deep root system. Briefly watering your trees on a daily basis will foster a shallow root system and root rot.
  • Overwatering can cause just as many problems as lack of water because the roots are unable to absorb oxygen, essentially drowning.

Note: Consult with a certified arborist to determine a water regimen appropriate for your trees in the summer.

Dealing with drought. Tree loss is common during droughts, so it’s important to establish a preventative treatment plan. The Texas A&M Forest Service reports that 301 million trees were lost as a direct impact of the 2011 drought in Texas. Aside from limited water and scorching sun, local pests can also be a bigger threat during droughts., managed by the Tree Care Industry Association, reports that during an extended drought in Georgia several years ago, regional pests began appearing much earlier than expected, wreaking havoc on the weakened and water-starved trees. Droughts are extremely important times to consult with a professional arborist who can help mitigate drought-related problems. During drought conditions, local authorities often place restrictions on water usage, so consider alternative methods of procuring water for your trees, such as installing a rain barrel or recycling clean water from your home.

Dealing with summer storms. Water supply can be feast or famine in the summer. While trees tend to love the extra rain, heavy winds and lightning can cause severe damage. Experts often recommend preventative pruning, which entails thinning the branches at the top of the crown and removing dead or dying branches. When properly performed, preventative pruning reduces wind resistance, which may help to reduce limb loss during heavy storms. A professional arborist can also identify weak branches that may benefit from bracing and cabling. If storm damage to trees occurs, it’s best to bring in a professional who can determine the best and safest course of action.

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Sources: Arbor Day Foundation; Fairfax County Virginia; Georgia Forestry Commission; International Society of Arboriculture; Texas A&M Forest Service; Tree Care Industry Association; United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service; Virginia Department of Forestry.

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