We all may still be inside our warm houses looking out at our winter gardens, but we’re fast approaching the time when trees and shrubs in Connecticut shake off winter and get into spring growing mode.
Household spring-cleaning traditions can be extended to the outdoors as well, as there are some spring tree care tasks that will help prepare our trees and shrubs for warmer weather and their growing season.
Inspect Your Trees & Shrubs
A good first step is to inspect your trees and shrubs to see how they fared over the winter.
- Look up into the branches of your trees to spot any winter storm, snow, or ice damage to limbs that you might not have noticed
- Look down to see if there is road salt damage or road salt residue on or around your trees and shrubs
- And look around for signs of overwintering insects or signs of disease. Bare winter branches make these inspections easier!
Once you know what you’re dealing with, move on to the tasks below.
Correct Winter Damage
If you find storm damage, plan to have your tree inspected by an arborist before spring growth starts. If branches need to be pruned or removed, it’s best to have this done before tender new leaves or flowers start emerging, and just before a tree’s sap starts running.
Minimize Salt Damage
For salt damage or accumulation, water is the answer. When temperatures are forecasted to stay above freezing, spray your plants with your garden hose to wash salt off their branches, surface roots, and foliage (if they’re evergreens).
For salt and de-icing chemicals around your trees and shrubs, slow and thorough irrigation will dilute the salt and wash it through the soil. This prevents uptake by your plants’ root systems.
For more information about salt damage to trees and shrubs, including how to prevent and minimize it, check out this blog post.
Check Irrigation & Watering Supplies
General irrigation is a good idea if the spring weather is dry, or if we’ve had little snow or rain over the winter. This will help protect new spring growth from water stress.
Check that your irrigation system is working and fix any leaks or broken spray heads.
Uncoil garden hoses and check for cracks or leaks. Make sure spray nozzles, sprinklers, and hose-end bubblers are in working order. Replace anything that isn’t fully functional.
Prevent Pest & Disease Problems
Any pests or disease you find should be properly diagnosed and, if needed, treated to prevent future problems.
Before using sprays, make sure the timing won’t negatively affect leaves and flowers that will soon emerge, and that the type of spray won’t harm the beneficial insects you want in your garden. Each pest or disease has a specific window of opportunity for effective treatment. Applying insecticides, fungicides, or other treatments outside that timeframe is generally ineffective and can even be harmful.
Plant Some Trees
Spring is a great time to plant. Once the soil has warmed, it’s easy to dig planting holes. Plus, mild temperatures mean less water stress on newly-planted trees.
Be sure to test your irrigation before planting!
PRO TIP: Spring is the ideal time to check out any flowering trees you might want to add to your garden – you can see them in full bloom before choosing.
Serviceberry (Amalanchier), dogwood (Cornus), flowering cherries (Prunus), redbud (Cercis), and crabapples (Malus) are all flowering trees that grow well in our area and put on stunning spring displays. You can read more about identifying and selecting trees for our area here.
A Few More Things To Do …
- Clean up any debris or dead leaves that might harbor pests or disease (this doesn’t mean remove all fallen leaves – see this article for details)
- Cut back perennials
- Trim shrubs
- Add compost over your soil to provide nutrients and improve soil texture
- Add mulch around trees and shrubs to keep water in your soil and weeds out. If you regularly use mulch, spring is an ideal time to replenish it.
- Fertilize any plants that like extra food. Compost is the best way to get long-term, fertile soil, but granular or liquid fertilizers are fine. Just don’t over-fertilize or allow nitrogen and phosphorous runoff to occur.
- Be sure to remove any winter wrapping before temperatures warm. You’ll want air circulation to prevent fungal and bacterial growth.
Benefits of Spring Tree Care
The real benefits of your spring tree care will be seen throughout the growing season and into fall.
A tree or shrub that has been fertilized, mulched, and sufficiently watered will start spring with lots of flowers and a healthy crown of leaves.
Healthy, well-cared-for trees will have more resistance to insect pests and diseases that are most active during warm weather. A preventive Tree Health Care program also reduces the incidence of pest and disease damage. The end result is lower costs for treatment and better-looking trees.
Timely and proper pruning results in a better-formed branch structure that evenly distributes new growth, making trees less prone to storm damage. It also provides a larger and more effective area of shade beneath shade trees, a heavier harvest on fruit trees, and a more aesthetically pleasing tree.
A Final Word
If you need help with your spring tree care or would like a consultation to get a big-picture idea of the health of your trees, give us a call. Our crews are trained and knowledgeable, and we’re here to help.
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