Sometimes good things really do come in small packages. The Tree Care Primer published by Brooklyn Botanic Garden is a little gem about a big topic. Written by Christopher Roddick with Beth Hanson, The Tree Care Primer packs most of what you need to know about tree care into a concise, but highly useful, 118 page package.
Even if you hire a well-qualified arborist, it helps to understand the elements of tree care, especially in the early stages – before, during, and soon after planting. Trees certainly deserve our consideration – they provide valuable ecosystem services, including storm water interception and retention, enhance our physical environment, and even increase property values.
Thinking about planting a large tree? The Tree Care Primer points out that providing adequate space for the tree, especially below ground, is frequently overlooked. Most people focus on the above ground volume that a tree will fill – and often, not even that! How many homeowners (or landscapers) think about the underground volume? The Primer mentions research done by the Morton Arboretum which found that a tree’s root zone can be at least twice as wide as a tree is tall. This is also useful to know when you are contemplating construction near trees.
Once you have determined that you have space, above and below ground, for a particular species of tree, do you know what to look for when shopping for that tree? Balled and burlapped? Containerized? Bare root? The primer gives the pros and cons of each.
Here are two of the many helpful tips in The Tree Care Primer about selecting a nursery trees: 1) choose a tree with a well-developed trunk and well-placed lateral branches; avoid trees that appear poorly pruned or topped and 2) when buying a containerized tree, check for circling roots, which are a sign that the tree has not been moved to a larger pot as it grew. Such trees will not be able to establish a healthy root system when planted.
Simply understanding how trees grow and function can help you take better care of them. This primer explains the two ways in which trees grow – primary growth (elongation at the tips) and secondary growth (adding girth).
If you want to prune trees correctly, it’s useful to understand primary growth. At the tip of a twig is the terminal bud (aka apical bud), the spot from which the stem elongates, thus producing new growth. These terminal buds produce a substance called auxin that inhibits growth from lateral buds behind it. Some trees have strong “terminal dominance” and some do not. Cutting the terminal buds off some tree species can result in a nice bushy hedge, but may be highly destructive for tree species with strong terminal dominance, like Tulip Trees (Tulipifera liriodendron).
The pruning section of the Primer, covers key topics in short order: timing, tools, safety and technique. The diagram of how to prune branches outside the branch collar, should save many a tree from flush cuts (over-cutting) or branch stubs (under-cutting). A note to the saw-happy – the authors point put that excessive pruning seriously compromises the life expectancy of a tree. Tree topping (aka heading cuts) is also thankfully mentioned as a very poor practice – eliminating terminal buds and producing dangerous, weakly attached branches.
Pick up a copy of The Tree Pruning Primer, and one for your neighbors!
From Kim Eierman at EcoBeneficial!