You’ve Planted your Tree(s). Now What?
Newly planted trees need a bit of attention and care. Don’t let this deter you from planting or adopting a tree; the care you need to give is really quite minimal!
Water, Water, Water
Your tree will be putting down new roots (pardon the pun!) in its new home, and needs plenty of water while it is expanding its root system. If a tree does not get enough water, it will slowly die, and a tree’s extensive root system is how it obtains its water. Until a tree has fully established itself in its new environment (by laying down new roots and extending them into a vast network), you will need to water it regularly, about once a week. There are many ways to go about this.
Some people like to use overhead sprinklers to water their trees, but they are highly inefficient – you are likely to lose half of your water to evaporation alone, and you always end up watering areas that don’t need the water (eg: your driveway, walkway, or sidewalk).
You can more effectively water your tree by placing a garden hose with a slow trickle of water at the base of the tree, and letting it sit there for 2-3 hours. This slow trickle of water given over a long period of time will provide a deep watering, which allows more water to reach even the deepest roots of your tree.
Another option is to encircle your tree with a spiral soaker hose, which will also water the tree slowly over a period of time.
Always remember to avoid watering during the hottest part of the day (usually between 10am and 6pm) in order to save water. A good general rule is to water in the evening, because then the tree will have all night to take up the water that was put into the soil, before the water is lost to evaporation during the day.
Don’t forget that every tree species is unique. Make sure to research your tree: you don’t want to mistakenly over-water a tree that prefers to be a little dry!
Pruning. Don’t Do It.
When your tree is just establishing itself in its new environment, keep pruning to an absolute minimum. Only prune dead and broken branches. When a tree is in this “establishment phase” all of its resources are going towards growing roots, and very little into branches and leaves. If the tree looses these leaves and other above ground material, it will be awhile before they are replaced by new growth. Plants, including trees, use leaves to make food. If these leaves get lost, you may end up with a stunted, weakened tree, and it may take some time for the tree to recover from this damage.
If you absolutely must prune (or if the tree you want to prune is not newly planted), then make sure you do so properly. Check out the following resources for more information:
Putting mulch around the base of your tree helps keep in moisture, keep out weeds, and offer protection from weed-whackers and lawn mowers. Do not place mulch directly over the root ball, and never mound it up against the trunk. Burying the trunk by even just 2-inches could shorten the lifespan of the tree.
Note: if your tree looks ill, please contact the City of Ottawa at 311 for assistance.