Here’s how to “Go Green” with your trees by following a few simple rules.
Plan carefully when selecting a tree and a location.
Trees and soil
Trees and soil must be compatible. It’s easier to take care of a tree that grows well in Midwestern soil because it will always be healthier. Make sure you are selecting a tree that is suitable for our soil conditions and for urban planting.
Be careful not to plant your tree directly underneath utility wires. The tree may be only five feet high right now, but it will grow. Unless its full growth remains under 15 feet, it will reach those power lines.
Consider other trees in the area. Does this tree fit your landscape?
Certain trees are suitable for the understory. That is the space underneath very large, tall trees. Understory trees tolerate shade better and actually like being underneath a bigger tree. Many trees are not suited for this environment.
Know your tree.
Be sure you know the characteristics of the tree you are planting. Even a popular tree can be the wrong choice if you don’t know its characteristics. Maple trees provide a good example to consider. They are cost effective, fast growing and come in many beautiful varieties – and those are just the first three reasons maple species are a popular choice. But even maple trees should be selected with care. Maples are known by many homeowners for their shallow roots and dense shade. Both of these conditions make for challenging landscaping under the tree. In particular, if you are planting in an area where you want turf, maple may not the best choice.
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Keep Your Trees Healthy
Here are some things to consider when planting and caring for your trees.
If you’re planting the tree yourself, follow instructions from your nursery carefully and water appropriately. It is critically important to place the tree correctly relative to the surface of the ground, and to water adequately (but not too much).
Water properly and at the right time
Trees, like all plants, need proper watering when they are first planted. The rule of thumb is about 1 inch of rain per week during the growing season. Large, well-established trees need watering less often and typically only in extended periods of dry weather. Always, water long and deep rather than giving a short shallow drink.
Mulch your trees
Mulching is the single most effective thing you can do to keep trees healthy. Mulch is organic material – wood chips, compost, shredded leaves or a combination of these. Organic mulches help retain soil moisture, cool summer soil temperatures and warm winter temperatures, improve soil structure and restore nutrients.
Prune to avoid disease and enhance shapeliness
Pruning is important because it helps avoid broken branches – and broken branches are one of the key ways that disease enters a tree. Pruning also stimulates new growth and, if done properly, enhances the shape of your tree by stimulating the right growth. Prune carefully, using clean, sharp tools. If you don’t know the techniques important in pruning, seek professional guidance. Above all, do not climb to prune on your own. Professional arborists follow strict safety rules when pruning large trees and you should too!
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Watch for Signs of Pests and Disease
We often tend to see the bugs on our plants (especially our vegetables) and miss the ones attacking our trees. Here are some things to know and look for:
Most Wanted Pest!
It’s a good idea to be aware of the most prevalent pests in the Chicago area, and today that’s the Emerald Ash Borer. As its name indicates, it’s an emerald green beetle that has attacked ash trees in many parts of the nation, and has been sighted in the Chicago area. Signs of EAB infestation in ash trees include serpentine squiggles or trails on the bark, dieback from the top of the tree and accelerated woodpecker activity. If you think you have spotted such evidence, contact your city forester or one of the following sites:
- The Illinois Department of Agriculture at www.IllinoisEAB.com
- Your local University of Illinois Extension office web.extension.uiuc.edu/state/index.html
- Visit www.emeraldashborer.info
- The Morton Arboretum Plant Clinic at www.mortonarb.org
Other signs to watch for:
- Holes or channels in the trunk of your tree or mounds of sawdust at the base are indicators of boring infestation. Die-back of the top section of a tree can also indicate damage from boring insects.
- Dead areas in the tree, dieback of branches or any unexplained wilting or browning of flowers or leaves can be a sign of fungal and bacterial diseases.
- Leaves with holes or with the appearance of being chewed indicate defoliating insect damage.
Trees Can Also Suffer From Stress
Construction is particularly stressful for trees, even mature trees.
Take extra care of your trees
if you happen to be in an area where construction is taking place. If you are unlucky enough to have a major tree root cut by neighborhood construction, call your local arborist for fertilizer treatments that can stimulate new root growth. Your arborist can also prune the branches that are at risk of being broken by construction equipment. Pruning prevents your tree’s branches from being broken during the construction process.
Even if there is no digging:
Compacted soil under your trees can also cause root damage, even if no roots are cut. If heavy equipment is running over your yard – or your neighbor’s – it’s best to check out the special steps you can take to pamper your trees.
Trees in extremely urban settings
are important because they often provide the only green around. But they may also suffer from stress. We’ve all seen urban trees planted in endless concrete sidewalks. Trees in these conditions struggle to survive and need extra care to thrive.
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