The Maintenance & Care of Older Trees

by Nancy Penrose

Trees can be a beautiful addition to a landscape, and can help solve screening and privacy problems. As the trees mature, they can increase property value. The shade provided by mature trees can also keep your home cooler during the summer and help reduce energy costs.

Some maintenance and care will be necessary to keep your older trees healthy through the years, including watering, mulching, fertilizing and pruning. Periodic inspections will also be important to detect and address any signs of disease or other potential problems.

When a tree isn’t watered properly, it can lead to poor health and eventual plant loss. The quantity and frequency of water needed for an older tree is determined by tree type, soil and weather conditions. If a tree has been planted in soil that retains moisture, too much water can cause root damage. When a tree’s roots have been impaired, it makes it difficult for the tree to absorb the water it needs to survive. The result is wilting, a condition that also occurs when there is insufficient water.

Mulching protects a tree’s roots from foot traffic, in addition to lawn mowers and similar types of equipment. It keeps the soil aerated and prevents it from being compacted. Mulch also retains more moisture than the surrounding soil and allows rain to penetrate the soil more easily.

Trees require various types of nutrients to grow. Not all soils contain the nutrients needed for good development. Fertilization may be necessary to ensure long-term health and vitality. The best way to determine if your trees need fertilizer is to have your soil tested. Once the soil has been analyzed, a big tree specialist can tell you what nutrients are needed, as well as when and how to fertilize your trees. Because the wrong fertilizer or improper application can damage and even kill your trees, getting advice from an expert is critical.

Pruning older trees is also extremely important. Getting rid of dead branches and excess weight at the end of branches prevents breakage. Pruning can also enhance a tree’s shape and improve its structure. A mature tree may also need to be pruned for safety reasons.

Improper pruning can cause serious tree damage, as well as tree loss. Removing too many leaves can reduce the tree’s ability to convert sunlight to food, resulting in starvation. Pruning errors can also lead to plant disease due to a mature tree’s slower healing process. To much pruning can even cause sun damage. Because pruning larger, older trees will usually require special equipment, you may want to contact a big trees supplier in your area for assistance.

Conducting annual inspections is not only the best way to detect and prevent the spread of tree disease, it can also help you spot and resolve other problems that could compromise your tree’s health. When inspecting your trees, look for loose bark, dieback, decay and deformed tree growths, as well as any decreases in growth compared to previous years.

If you have any concerns or questions about the maintenance and care of your older trees, take the time to speak with a tree specialist who can give you the advice and help that you need.