Get Ready for Growing Season: Spring Tree Care Tips

As Spring begins and tree planting season comes to a close, young trees that were planted over the winter are waking up from dormancy and starting to grow in their new home: your yard! There are a few care tips we strongly recommend around this time of year; read more below about the easy things you can do now to ensure your trees thrive this year – and beyond!
The spring plumage of an eastern redbud, one of Tennessee’s more colorful native species.

Remove Stakes and Ties

Did you receive a tree from the Cumberland River Compact this planting season? If so, it may have come with a thin bamboo stake attached to its trunk. Now is a great time to remove it!

These stakes protect the trees while they are transported from the nursery in McMinnville to Nashville, but your tree doesn’t need to remain staked after it’s planted. In fact, because the stakes are so tightly bound to the trunk, they can harm trees in the long run. How, you ask? Young trees grow FAST, and the ties can restrict their growth; it happens faster than you might believe. 

We also recommend removing stakes because it’s healthy for young trees to bend and sway a bit in the wind or storms. Allowing some movement will actually cause your trees to grow stronger in the long run!

However, it is possible that after removing a stake, you find a tree leaning heavily to one side. If this happens, don’t panic: we simply recommend re-staking your tree after removing its original tight constraints. Re-staking should be loose, the ties should be wide and flexible, and the stake should ideally only remain on the tree for one growing season. We like this article from the University of Minnesota Extension for further tips.

Regardless of whether your tree came with a stake, it’s important to remove any ties that may be on it. You’re welcome to keep your loosely-tied Root Nashville tree tag on, though, to display your campaign pride!

Clear the Root Flare

A tree’s root flare (the area where the trunk starts to curve and become the top-most roots) is a crucial part of its overall structure and health. That’s why our planting instructions emphasize the importance of planting trees at the right depth (the root flare should be at ground level, or an inch or two above– NOT too deep).

Image source: Research Gate, Keith Sacre illustration

This spring, before the time for weekly watering rolls around, take a few minutes to pull back soil or mulch from your tree’s root flare if needed. Tree roots need oxygen, so you don’t want to smother the flare; keeping it exposed is one of the best things you can do to support your tree’s long-term health.

Add a Thin Layer of Mulch

Mulching is another simple strategy that makes a big difference for young trees. However, it’s easy to mulch too much or mulch incorrectly.

The trick to proper mulching? Keep it thin (2-4 inches) and wide (as wide as you want), and don’t let it touch the trunk of the tree.

Image source: Trees Forever

Correctly applied mulch helps with water retention, keeps weeds away, and adds organic material to the soil, nourishing your tree’s roots.

Consider Mower Protections

If you mow your lawn or use weed whackers (and especially if you hire a landscaping crew to help take care of your yard), you might want to consider protecting your new tree’s trunk before your lawn starts to grow this year. When mowers get too close to a young tree, or weed whackers accidentally nick the root flare area, it can cause a lot of harm. Trunk guards (placed loosely around the base of a tree) offer effective and easy protection. They can be purchased at your local home and garden store; alternatively, simple chicken wire does the trick!

Finalize your Watering Plan

At the beginning of May, we recommend starting your weekly watering routine. Make sure you aren’t caught off guard when the hot weather settles in: get a hose extension (if needed) to reach the base of your tree, or make sure you’ve got buckets on hand. Weekly watering is recommended for the first two summers after planting; after that, your tree’s root system should be established enough to sustain it. If you received a tree from us, we’ll send weekly reminders to let you know whether watering is necessary or not based on rainfall.

For other tree care tips and information, refer to the digital Tree Care Packet. We’ll share more on this topic soon, but here’s a sneak peek: don’t worry about cicadas, your trees will be fine! As always, if you have further questions, feel free to reach out to our team at hello@rootnashville.org.

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