Caring for your tree

two boys watering young tree

Your trees will grow 30 percent to 60 percent faster with regular care during the first five growing seasons. Good care means more shade sooner.

Watering

For newly planted trees, "deep water" twice a week when the temperature is below 90 degrees, and three times a week if the temperature climbs to 100 degrees or above. If you are planting during the summer, follow this watering schedule until the fall rains begin.

Water your trees deeply and slowly, at least 10 gallons each time, by placing a hose near the trunk and letting it trickle all day or all night. Sprinklers can’t provide deep watering that will moisten all the tree roots.

Summer watering is very important in the first few growing seasons.

It is easy to determine if the soil near the trees is too wet or too dry. Dig up a handful of soil from about 6 inches deep and squeeze it into a ball. If it crumbles, it is too dry. If water drips out, it is too wet.

Mulching

Keep wood chips or other organic mulch 4 to 6 inches deep around the base of your tree (but not against the trunk) to help control weeds and reduce moisture evaporation from the soil. As wood chips decompose, they improve the soil.

Do not mulch with rock or gravel. Mulching with rock won’t provide the insulation needed to keep a tree growing vigorously during the hot summer months. Also, do not use black plastic since tree roots need oxygen.

Free wood chips are available for SMUD customers to use as mulch around their trees and shrubs.

Weeding

Keep the planting area (four feet in diameter) clear of weeds, grass and other plant life. Competition from other plants inhibits the growth of young trees.

Do not use a lawn mower or weed trimmer within this area. Put on a pair of gardening gloves and pull the weeds out by hand. To avoid this chore altogether, mulch! .

Staking and Tying

If your tree came with a nursery stake (a thin stake attached to the tree trunk) remove it to enable the tree to get strong.

If the trunk bends over, stake it with two large stakes, each about 18 inches from the trunk. If your tree can easily support itself, do not stake it. If you stake your tree, periodically check the stakes and ties to ensure that they are not harming the trunk or branches. The sooner you remove the stakes and ties, the stronger the tree will be.

Winter Care

If your tree is staked, wait until early summer before removing the stakes and ties because our strong winter and spring winds can bend or even blow over some of your trees.

Pruning

We recommend that you do not prune your new tree for the first three years. However, if your tree is growing vigorously, some trees can be pruned after two years.

The more foliage that remains on the tree, the faster it will grow. The Sacramento Tree Foundation offers special pruning classes during the fall and winter months. You may also choose to receive seasonal tree tips with more pruning information.

When it is time to prune, follow these general procedures for young trees:

  • Use only clean and sharp pruning tools.
  • Remove dead, damaged and the weakest of any crossing limbs as well as suckers from the base of the tree.
  • Each branch selected for removal should be cut outside the small ridge known as the branch bark collar located where the branch joins the trunk. Leave this collar intact. Wound dressings should not be used for pruning cuts.
  • Never cut the top off your tree!
  • After three years, you may prune the lower limbs to approximately one foot off ground level. If you want to walk under your tree canopy, continue to remove the lower limbs (one foot' off the ground) each year for up to five or six years.
  • Pruning that cannot be done from the ground or a short ladder should be left to a certified arborist. Contact your local nursery or the Master Gardener office at 916-875-6913, for recommendations.

Tree Questions or Problems?

Call the Stewardship Department at the Sacramento Tree Foundation at 916-974-4304.

Related Topics

  • The District offers programs to provide equal opportunity to all segments of the business community.
  • SMUD is nationally recognized as a leader in renewable resources and electric transportation.
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