Our landscape trees rarely die of old age. Usually, there is something we have done or failed to do that shortens the lifespan of our trees.
It can be easy to forget trees are living things that need certain conditions to thrive. The science of cultivating a healthy tree often is overlooked for the sake of convenience.
By following the tips below, hopefully we can better take care of the tree canopy.
Avoid the mulch volcano. Piled mulch or soil should not touch the trunk of trees. Nothing that can hold moisture and keep the bark damp should touch trunks. They need to be kept clean and dry.
Take a walk through your local nature preserve and observe the trees. The root flare—the transition between the trunk and the roots—is plainly visible. This should be the same in your landscape.
Mulch piled too high on a tree is called a mulch volcano. In addition to causing decay in the trunks of trees by holding moisture, mulch volcanoes promote roots that grow up out of the soil and wrap themselves around the tree trunks. These girdling roots can choke a tree and keep it from thriving.
Don’t thin the interior tree canopy too much. After the active 2004 hurricane season, University of Florida started studying the best way to prune a tree for wind tolerance.
It was determined thinning the canopy’s interior increased the likelihood of tree damage. This practice transfers most of the weight to the ends of the branches, making them more likely to break.
Over-thinning the canopy—a method called lion-tailing—reduces a tree’s wind tolerance. Reducing the length of branches appropriately through reduction cut pruning—and leaving interior branches—is the proper method to increase the wind tolerance of landscape trees.
Don’t hurricane prune palms. Removing the foliage of a palm to the point where the only fronds left are sticking straight up is commonly called hurricane pruning. This type of pruning weakens your palm.
The green fronds on a palm are where the tree produces food for itself. Hurricane pruning restricts how much food the tree gets, leading to a skinnier trunk that is likely to sway and break in the wind.
Typically, only brown, dead leaves should be removed when pruning palms. If that is not practical, palms should be pruned no higher than 9 and 3—as on a clock face.
By taking care of our trees and cultivating them correctly, we can be confident they will live long and productive lives.