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If you’ve just bought your first home, you’ve got a lot on your plate—you’re now responsible for taking care of every aspect of your home, inside and out. While your trees might be the last thing on your mind, they’re living things that shouldn’t be forgotten.

We’ve gathered a few core tips every new homeowner should know about tree care.

1. Choose the Right Trees for Your Property

If your property needs landscaping, you might want to add trees in addition to other vegetation. There are several factors to consider when choosing new plants and trees for your perfect outdoor space. Understand your reasons for planting a tree, and what you want it to accomplish. Do you want the tree to provide shade, or block windows for privacy? Will the tree be able to grow to its full height in your desired location? Does it fruit or flower?

Think about not only the aesthetic impact a tree may have on your home, but also any limitations of your property. Consider utility lines, your soil, irrigation, height and size of fully-grown tree, and your planting hardiness zone. In the northeast and Midwest, hardier trees are required, while in the south and southeast tropical trees, fruiting varieties and palms thrive particularly well.

2. Select Healthy Trees at the Nursery

Once you’ve identified the variety of tree you’d like to plant, you’re ready to head to the nursery. When you’re shopping, there are a few different things to look for to ensure you’ve chosen a healthy tree:

  • If you’re looking at a bare-root seedling, look for moist, fibrous roots. If it’s a deciduous seedling, the roots should be about equal in length to the stem.
  • For balled and burlapped trees, look for a firm root ball that is appropriately sized for the tree
  • Container-grown trees should have solidly joined roots and soil, but the roots shouldn’t be large or circling within the container.

Overall, look for healthy bark, insect damage or wilting, and evenly spaced branches.

3. Plant Your Trees Correctly

Proper planting is the first step to proper tree care, and it isn’t as simple as digging a hole and dropping a tree in. Before you start digging, make sure your dig site is far enough from your home that roots and branches won’t damage your house as the tree grows, and locate all underground utilities.

Your hole should be 2-3 times wider than the root ball and deep enough that the trunk flare (the part of the tree where the trunk starts to expand before the roots) is visible. The planting hole should never be deeper than the distance from the trunk flare to the bottom of the root ball. The most common planting mistake is planting too deeply.

When you place the tree in the hole, take a few steps back to make sure it’s straight. If planting a ball and burlapped tree, remove the twine and burlap from the top and upper sides of root ball. If the root ball is encased in a wire basket, remove as much of the top portion of the wire as possible. For instances where the trunk flare is not visible on the root ball, it’s imperative to locate the primary structural roots. Pull-back any excess soil from the top of the root ball until the trunk flare has been located.

Backfill the hole using the same soil that was removed from the planting hole. Using soil amendments will not assist in tree establishment and growth unless the soil at the site significantly restricts root growth. When backfilling, firm the soil around the bottom of the root ball, add water, if necessary, to minimize air pockets. Slightly tamp down the remainder of the backfill as the hole is filled. Do not place backfill over the root system. The exposed ball can be covered with 2 to 4 inches of mulch. Stake if necessary.

4. Watering and Feeding

Whether you’ve just planted a new tree, or you’re maintaining an existing tree, you need to make sure it’s getting ample water and nutrition. The soil around your tree should be moist, but not muddy or water-logged— too much water is just as unhealthy as too little! Generally speaking, trees should be watered on the same weekly schedule as grass and shrubs, barring rain.

Depending on your soil, you may need to “feed” your tree periodically. Conduct a soil test to understand the nutrients your trees area already gets from the soil and consult an arborist or tree care expert to understand what nutrients your trees need to thrive. Fertilizing once a year is generally plenty, either in spring or fall, to ensure healthy growth.

5. Pruning and Trimming

In order to promote healthy growth and structure, pruning is essential to care for your trees. Pruning helps ensure that the tree grows straight and balanced, with ample air flow between branches to ensure attractive, healthy growth. Pruning can also help avoid disease or other weaknesses, which may potentially cause long term harm. When it comes to pruning, remember that “less is more” as over pruning may cause shock and long-term damage to the tree.

If your tree is growing into or around power lines or close to structures, tree trimming isn’t only an aesthetic decision, but also necessary to protect your home and neighbors from potential damage.

6. Understand when a Tree Removal Service is Necessary

If your tree fails to thrive despite your best efforts, or is growing in a risky way, has large void or cavities present, it may be necessary to remove it. Dead or weak trees pose a threat during stormy weather, as they may lose branches or become unstable and uprooted, damaging your home or adjacent properties. If your tree is unhealthy or significantly damaged, you should speak to a certified arborist about whether you need to remove it and your tree removal service options.

If you’ve purchased a property with existing trees that are too large, messy, or otherwise troublesome, you can consider removal as well. Especially if you’re doing significant renovations or construction on your new home and the tree is either hindering progress or risks being damaged by equipment, it may be safer to remove it before your project is underway.

The certified arborists at Townsend Residential can help keep trees healthy, safe, and aesthetically pleasing year-round. By working with a tree removal service like Townsend Residential, your new home and landscape will look stunning for years to come. Whether you’re introducing new trees or managing existing ones, we partner with you to help your trees thrive.