Earthworks WNC

Long-Term Care for Tree Health

Trees offer much more than just aesthetic appeal to the environment. They help clean the air by absorbing pollutants, lowering energy bills, producing oxygen, preventing soil erosion, and providing numerous social, economic, and environmental benefits. To fully utilize these benefits, proper maintenance is crucial. Regular care will ensure your trees stay healthy for a long time. Get more tips on how to maintain your trees and maximize their benefits by following this guide.

Right Tree, Right Placement.

To get started with proper tree care, selecting the right tree and planting it in the ideal location is crucial. Before choosing a tree, consider its intended purpose. Will it provide shade and lower energy costs? Or will it enhance the appearance of your property with its ornamental features? Understanding the purpose of the tree will help you assess the suitability of different tree options for your landscape.

Assessing the conditions of your site before planting is just as crucial as choosing the right tree. Consider factors such as sun exposure and soil type. What is the maximum height and spread that a tree can reach in this location? Planting trees that do not suit your soil or placing large trees in confined spaces can harm their health. Taking the time to evaluate your site before planting can prevent future issues.

Watering Your Trees.

Watering is a critical aspect of tree care, but determining the right amount can be challenging due to varying weather and tree requirements. To properly water your trees, here are some guidelines:

Newly Planted Trees: Watering frequency for newly planted trees is higher than for established ones. Immediately after planting, trees need to be watered and kept moist for the first week or two. From three to twelve weeks after planting, water the tree every 2 to 3 days. Then, after twelve weeks, provide the tree with weekly water.

Saplings Under Two Years: During the first two years of growth, a newly planted tree focuses its energy on establishing roots in the soil. To support this process, water the tree with 5 to 15 gallons each week for its first two years. This is especially crucial during summer when hot weather and drought can cause stress to the tree.

Watering Accessories: Watering accessories such as bags or buckets can improve tree watering by making it more efficient and affordable. These tools are simple to use and help overcome the challenges of over- or under-watering. You can also create a drip irrigation system. To do so, start with 5-gallon buckets and drill 1 to 2 holes in the center bottom. Place the bucket over the tree’s root zone, fill it with water, and wait for the water to drain before refilling.

Watering, When, and Where:

 As a rule of thumb, water your tree from the time the ground thaws to when it freezes, and remove any watering accessories during winter. When watering,

target the root ball or root zone of the tree. As the tree grows, gradually increase the area being watered.


Applying mulch to a newly planted tree can enhance soil structure, conserve moisture, and protect the soil from extreme temperatures. It also protects the tree from lawn-mowing equipment damage and suppresses weed growth around the tree.

Proper Mulching Method: 

It’s important to note that while mulching can be done at any time, the best time is mid-spring when soil temperatures are warm enough for root growth to start. To mulch, first clear grass within a 3-foot radius around the tree (up to 10 feet for larger trees), using the tree’s “drip line” (the outermost edge of its canopy) as a guide. Then, apply a 2- to 4-inch layer of organic mulch, such as hardwood bark, in the cleared area. To maintain tree health, keep mulch away from the tree trunk and allow the root flare to show. Replenish mulch annually.

Ground Cover: A viable alternative to mulching is using native ground cover around your tree. Ground covers suppress weeds and need minimal upkeep once established. They not only add aesthetic value to your landscape but also retain soil moisture and prevent runoff.


Pruning is a vital aspect of tree care that helps maintain its shape and structure, enhances its health, and ensures the safety of yourself and your property. Proper pruning techniques should always be followed.

Winter Pruning: The ideal time for pruning trees is from Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day when they are in a dormant state, and their structure is visible. This makes it easier for the tree to recover and promote healthy new growth when spring arrives. It’s important to wait until the coldest period of winter has passed, as pruning cuts may dry out if the temperature drops below freezing.

Summer Pruning: The second-best time for pruning is during mid-summer, once the leaves have fully grown. During this time, you can steer the tree’s growth by reducing unwanted branches or improving light penetration.

When to Avoid Pruning: It is advised not to prune your tree during spring budding or fall leaf drop as it is a demanding time for the tree. Trees concentrate their energy on these processes and won’t be able to heal the pruning wound as efficiently. Furthermore, fall is when decay fungi spread their fragments, increasing the risk of fungal disease for the tree.

For more information on pruning your trees, check out Tips for Effective Tree Trimming and Pruning.


Protecting your tree from wildlife and weather conditions is another way you can help your tree thrive.

Deer: During the cooler autumn season, bucks will rub their antlers on trees, marking their territory and warning other deer to back off. Antler rubbing removes bark on young trees and can cause considerable damage. Protect your tree from deer damage by installing a barrier of three sturdy wooden stakes or fence posts around the tree in early fall. Space the posts or stakes approximately 18 inches apart to create an effective barrier. 

Rabbits: To keep rabbits from damaging your tree, surround it with chicken wire or hardware cloth fencing. Secure the fencing in place with U-shaped anchor pins along the bottom edge of the fencing, pushed into the soil to prevent rabbits from sneaking underneath.

Voles: To protect small trees from damage caused by voles during winter, wrap the trunks with 1/4-inch hardware cloth fencing and bury 2-3 inches of it in the soil to block vole burrows.

Roots: To prevent root damage to newly planted trees during winter, spread 2-4 inches of organic mulch over the roots, being careful not to touch the trunk. The mulch provides insulation, raising soil temperatures and boosting spring root growth. If the fall season has been dry, ensure to water thoroughly before the ground freezes, as moist soil retains more heat than dry soil, reducing the penetration of frost.

Sunscald: Sunscald occurs during winter due to abrupt temperature changes on the bark, making newly planted trees more susceptible than established trees. To guard against sunscald, wrap the tree with a white commercial tree wrap or guard to reflect sunlight and maintain consistent bark temperatures. Wrap newly planted trees for a minimum of two winters after planting.

Tree Accessories: As your tree grows, remove any tree guards, stakes, ties, and water-related equipment to prevent damage.

If you have any further questions or would like to schedule a free estimate to have our professionals handle the hard work for you, feel free to contact us here. Our Earthworks Tree Services certified arborists look forward to assisting you with all your tree needs.

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