As summer arrives, your trees are in high gear making leaves, setting flowers and fruit, and spreading new roots. But the coming heat, lack of water, and frequent summer thunderstorms of a typical Connecticut summer can quickly bring that to a halt. How can you ensure your trees will be healthy and vigorous this summer (and beyond)? By following these basic, but important, summer tree care best practices that will help your trees survive the summer and ensure their future health.
Check Your Trees Regularly in Summer
During summer’s hot weather and long days, be sure you check your trees to catch any problems early. Early identification makes problems much easier (and faster) to treat.
Here are a few important things to look for:
Signs of Tree Disease
Fungal and bacterial diseases can spread rapidly to your trees during summer’s long, hot days. When you take a few minutes to look for early signs of diseases, you can address your tree problems early and avoid a serious disease outbreak.
You can read more about the symptoms of tree diseases but, if you’re not sure what you’re seeing, don’t hesitate to get a professional evaluation.
Increasing Insect Populations
Insect populations explode during the long days and high temperatures of summer. You can limit the spread and damage that insect pests cause by spotting them early and treating them with the right method.
Getting the right pest treatment at the right time is key to controlling insect populations and keeping your trees healthy.
Prune Your Trees in Summer (Yes, You Can!)
The best time for you to prune your trees is in winter when trees are dormant. That being said, there is some less extensive or emergency tree pruning you can do in summer.
You can lightly prune your trees in summer to:
- Control growth – If your trees develop suckering growth on branches, you can prune out suckers that may use up the energy your tree needs to make leaves, flowers, or fruit.
- Shape the tree canopy – After the vigorous growth of spring has slowed down, you may find that the tree’s canopy is lopsided, too dense, or overgrown. Judicious summer pruning can help improve the appearance, airflow, and size of your tree.
- Remove broken or poorly structured branches – An unbalanced branch or one that’s broken from summer storms can be pruned out in summer.
- Prevent damage – If you see a branch that has broken or that has started rubbing against another branch or a nearby structure, it’s a good idea to prune it out before your tree’s bark is damaged.
It’s important to remember that any pruning you do during the growing season should be for reasons like these where there’s new growth that’s oversized, damaging, or unwanted.
Summer is not the time to do any major structural pruning to your trees or to remove any large branches unless they pose a hazard.
Clean Up After Summer Storms
Strong summer thunderstorms, particularly along the Connecticut coast, can seriously damage your trees. It’s not uncommon to see trees with snapped or downed branches and twigs and leaves torn off by strong winds. And that’s even without severe summer storms like the May 15, 2018 tornadoes that devastated much of the state. Hail, lightning strikes, heavy rain, and flash flooding can add to the damage.
Evaluate & Remove Damaged Branches
Any broken or hanging branch that isn’t securely attached to the tree is a hazard, and it can fall at any time.
After a thunderstorm has passed, it’s worthwhile to check your trees for any damage. If you find broken or hanging branches in your tree’s crown, immediately call an arborist to evaluate your tree and prune out any dangerous branches.
Check for Lightning Strikes
Thunderstorms mean lightning. And with trees often being the tallest things around, they are easy targets for a lightning strike. Depending on the health of the tree, a lightning strike can destroy a tree in a giant explosion, can make it catch fire, or can leave a wound that can be infected by pests or diseases.
If you have large trees that are high value and/or close to your home or business, you may want to consider having lightning protection installed in those trees.
Look for Root Damage
Trees are designed to be flexible and to endure powerful winds and heavy weather. Tree roots are anchors that allow a tree’s crown to bend in the wind. But when a storm is too powerful, a tree’s root system can’t always hold it steady.
After a strong summer storm, it’s a good idea to check the stability of your trees and make sure their root system hasn’t been torn or uprooted.
When you examine your trees for root damage from a summer storm, look for these signs:
- a trunk that’s listing to one side
- disturbed soil around a tree’s base from roots that have been dislodged and broken the surface of the soil
- soil heaving or cracks in the soil on one side of the tree (even if you can’t see the roots)
If you see any of these indicators of root damage, give us a call. We’ll be able to tell you whether or not the tree has become dangerously unstable and should be removed before it falls.
Prevent Summer Heat Stress in Your Trees
July and August are usually the hottest months in Connecticut, with the warmest month on record occurring in July 2019 and the warmest day on July 22, 2011.
During summer heat waves, recently planted trees are at high risk of heat damage. Even established trees can become heat-stressed. You may see your trees show the following symptoms:
- Stunted leaf growth
- Wilting leaves
- Brown, dead leaf tips or edges
- Flower or fruit drop
- Premature leaf drop
Heat stress in trees is serious. Preventive actions are better than reactive ones.
The best way to prevent heat stress in your trees is by preparing them for hot weather before it arrives. Be sure you’ve given your trees sufficient irrigation (especially those that were planted this spring). Your trees are better equipped to endure hot temperatures with minimal damage when they start off hydrated. Spread mulch over your tree’s roots to help keep soil temperatures cool.
Keep up regular irrigation during a heat wave; if needed, increase the frequency of watering. Trees will be taking up more water much faster to try to prevent dehydration and stay cool.
Avoid Summer Water Stress in Trees
As with heat stress, it’s best to prevent your trees from becoming water-stressed than it is to try to revive them afterward.
In case you didn’t check your irrigation system in spring, do it now before our hottest weather arrives. You’ll want to make sure your trees are getting all the water they need to prevent dehydration, especially during heat waves.
Regular deep, slow watering is the best method for watering trees. It allows irrigation water to reach your tree’s deepest roots and discourages surface root formation. This is especially important for newly planted trees with small root balls that don’t extend far into the soil.
The best defense your new tree has against water stress is you!
Keep Soil Healthy to Keep Trees Healthy Through the Summer
Soil that’s nutritionally rich, with good water-holding properties, will naturally help your trees remain healthy and vigorous. When a tree’s roots can take up all the water and nutrients the tree needs, it’s less likely that the tree will suffer during extreme weather conditions.
You don’t have to dig up your garden to improve your soil: adding a layer of compost atop the soil and gently scratching it into the surface is enough. The compost will break down, infiltrate into the soil, and bond to soil particles. Compost is the best long-term soil improvement there is, as it improves soils’ structure, drainage, and carbon sequestration.
Add a Layer of Mulch
You may have replenished your garden mulch layer in spring but if you didn’t (or didn’t add enough), do it now. Aim for 3 to 4 inches of organic mulch spread to the dripline around each tree. During hot weather and periods of drought, a thick layer of mulch slows water evaporation and keeps moisture in the soil where your trees need it.
And while it’s helping to keep soil moisture levels up, mulch is also keeping soil temperatures down. You may think of mulch as a winter soil insulator that protects against freezing, but it also helps keep summer soil cooler. Less stress on tree roots means a healthier tree!
And don’t forget that mulch also suppresses weed growth. Your trees will have fewer competitors for soil water and nutrients, and your garden will look neater with less effort.
Fertilize Your Trees if Needed
While your trees are growing fast in summer, you may need to give them supplemental fertilizer to keep them vigorous. For large trees, the most effective way to fertilize is with a deep-root fertilizing treatment.
This method gets the nutrients where your tree needs them: at its roots. While surface fertilizers are fine for shrubs and perennials, the volume needed for large trees is most efficiently applied through subsurface injections.
To prevent fertilizer runoff, a big problem in Connecticut, hire a professional to accurately apply the right amount of fertilizer, right when your tree needs it.
NOTE: For similar reasons, we recommend hiring a professional to spray your trees for insects and diseases. Excessive pesticide spraying can cause serious environmental damage to the beneficial insects we rely on, such as honeybees.
A Final Word About Summer Tree Care
Healthy, well-cared-for trees have more resistance to the many insect pests and diseases that are most active during summer’s hot weather. They’re also less likely to lose leaves to summer heat or water stress.
We offer a full range of services for your trees, starting with a complete tree health assessment. This assessment allows us to be precise in our tree care suggestions, which saves you money. It can also save you headaches, as we can give you an annual schedule for pruning, fertilizing, spraying, and (if necessary) removal of diseased or hazardous trees.
If you feel overwhelmed by the list of summer tree care tasks, give us a call. Tree care is all we do, and we’re as invested in your trees as you are.
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