Countdown to Earth Day Tip #2: Take Care Of Your Trees!

Countdown to Earth Day Tip #2: Take Care Of Your Trees!

  • There’s no need to wait until Earth Day on April 22 to start celebrating our planet and becoming more engaged in taking care of its precious resources. This article is part of a series of tips on how to “go green” in Kane County — 15 in all, one for every business day before Earth Day. Use them to tap into your inner eco-mindfulness and let your green spirit shine brighter than ever!
  • This article was contributed by Beth Corrigan, Community Trees program specialist for The Morton Arboretum.

Tree tags will be on display at the Kane County Government Center through Arbor Day to educate visitors on the value of trees.

Tip #2: Trees Need More than Hugs … Make a Plan for Summer Tree Care!

Trees provide us with SO many benefits (having enough oxygen to breathe is pretty important after all), but there’s also the benefits of shade, wind protection, habitat for wildlife, food, aesthetics, and more.

Sure, it would be nice if all we ever had to do was occasionally hug a tree in return . . . but it turns out that trees need a little more than hugs in order to grow healthy and strong in order to continually provide us with all these great benefits.

Whether the spring conditions outdoors are too wet or too dry, by the time summer arrives there’s a short list of tree care tasks you should consider.

Pruning

Most trees should be pruned in spring. The exceptions are trees such as maples that have a lot of sap flowing then. These trees can be pruned later in summer when their sap is done flowing.

The Morton Arboretum’s Plant Clinic recommends waiting at least until maples are fully leafed out before attempting to prune.

Mulching

To protect tree trunks from mowers and to retain soil moisture, mulch is commonly applied during the spring and summer. Mulch should be applied in an even layer two to four inches deep, and kept at least three inches away from the trunk of the tree.

Problems can arise when mulch is spread too deeply or too many layers are applied without removing the old mulch from previous years. The Morton Arboretum warns homeowners to be aware of “volcano mulching” — piling excessive mulch against the tree trunk.  This may cause moisture to build up, creating ideal conditions for insect pests, diseases, and decay.

Watching for Disease

A wet spring may mean an increase in fungal diseases. Even if the weather turns drier in June and July, some pathogens can infect trees and shrubs later in the season.

Properly identifying a pathogen or pest that is harming your trees can be difficult, and the treatment of tree diseases can be time-consuming and expensive.

Several resources are available to assist residents and municipalities with proper identification. The Plant Clinic at The Morton Arboretum has numerous articles on insects and diseases on its website, and homeowners can also contact the Plant Clinic for advice by calling 630-719-2424 or emailing plantclinic@mortonarb.org.

Another resource is the University of Illinois Plant Clinic, which conducts plant and insect identification and diagnosis of diseases, as well as other agriculture-related diagnostics. The university’s Plant Clinic accepts samples for diagnosis through the mail for a small fee depending on the amount of equipment needed for proper diagnosis.  Instructions and contact information are located on their website at web.extension.illinois.edu/plantclinic.

Start making a plan now for how to best care for your trees this spring and summer — and while you’re at it, throw in a hug as an extra “thank you” for all of the great benefits trees provide us!

Read the Countdown to Earth Day Series!