Tips for Seasonal Tree Care

Trees can thrive with year-round care. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy’s community forestry staff offers the following advice for backyard arborists.

Mulch in Fall

Mulch looks nice, provides nutrients and keeps soil moist, roots warm and weeds down. Mulch also eliminates the need to weed whack too close to a tree, which can harm its bark.

  • A tree breathes through its root flair, so don’t bury the flair in mulch or pile mulch around the tree’s base.
  • Replace and turn mulch occasionally.
  • For additional protection, place a bark guard around a young tree to prevent wildlife from eating or rubbing away the bark.

Prune and Control Salt in Winter

  • Unless there is an emergency, prune trees only during winter dormancy –Thanksgiving through St. Patrick’s Day – when trees better handle stress and there is less insect activity, which spreads disease.
  • To reduce the spread of disease, sanitize pruning tools with first aid alcohol after pruning every tree, even those of the same species.
  • To prevent excessive salt runoff to tree roots, only salt sidewalks and driveways as much as necessary.
  • Alternative ice melts, such as potassium chloride or magnesium chloride, work at colder temperatures than salt and are healthier for tree roots.

Weed in Spring

Tree roots will be thirsty and wanting to grow come warm weather…and so will weeds.

  • Pull weeds early and often so they don’t get ahead of you.
  • Replace any mulch that blew away during winter.
  • If it’s a dry spring, water occasionally.

Water in Summer

Water, water and water some more! Young trees need up to 20 gallons of water per week in the hot, dry season, especially to survive the initial establishment period (up to three years in the ground).

  • Water at the roots only. Water can burn leaves in the hot sun.
  • Maintain a good two- to three-inch layer of undyed hardwood mulch, but not more, and don’t let mulch touch the trunk.
  • Continue to weed as needed.
For More Information:

Western Pennsylvania Conservancy
The Pittsburgh Redbud Project
800 Waterfront Drive
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Alicia Wehrle
Community Forestry Project Coordinator