How to Care for Different Types of Trees
Let’s take a step back and recognize something we often overlook: Trees are amazing.
They provide shade and look nice in your yard. Some provide delicious fruits and syrup. You can even hang swings from their branches
That’s why it’s in our best interest to see that trees live long and healthy lives. Of course, not all trees are created equal, which means some of them need a little more TLC than others. That’s why I wanted to write about how to identify the types of trees on your property, as well as how to best take care of them so that you can maximize your efforts.
Types of Trees
It goes without saying that there are many different types of trees in the world. But, typically, these many different types of trees are broken up into two categories: coniferous and deciduous.
Conifers, also called “evergreens,” are the ones whose needles and leaves stick around when the seasons change. Coniferous trees include: pines, firs, spruces, cedars, junipers and cypresses. Deciduous trees are the ones whose leaves fall off when the weather turns each fall. Deciduous trees include: oaks, maples, birches, elms and beeches.
Here’s a little bit more about each type:
1. Coniferous Trees
Conifers are fairly easy to maintain since they require very little care. Typically, you only have to water them during prolonged periods without rain. They only need to be fertilized once per year, and they require no pruning beyond what makes them aesthetically pleasing.
It should be noted that newly planted conifers require regular watering — at least once per day for the first month the tree is in the ground, once per week for the first year, and then once per month after that.
The amount of water a conifer receives is important as well, and mostly depends on the species you have. Overwatering can kill young trees as they haven’t had enough time to sufficiently plant their roots. And underwatering can dehydrate those same trees, giving them no chance to survive. Typically, trees should receive roughly 10 gallons of water at a time for the first few years, and then 20 to 30 gallons (or more) after that. The general rule of thumb is that you should do 10 gallons of water for every inch of the tree’s diameter (e.g. a trunk that’s 5 inches across should get 50 gallons of water). Note: For larger trees, it’s good to dig a trough of about 2 inches around the base of the tree. Then add water to the trough, which helps the tree’s root system hydrate more evenly.
2. Deciduous Trees
Deciduous trees can be a bit trickier to maintain. First, and most importantly, you must know three things in order to properly care for a deciduous tree:
- What type of tree you have
- What type of soil you have
- The tree’s age
For example, if your soil is clay, then you should water less frequently than if your soil is sandy — because clay holds water longer. Loam is the easiest soil to work with, and it’s often found in states north of Tennessee. If you have loam in Maine, Wisconsin or other northern states, just buy what suits your climate zone, give the tree some regular attention, and sit back and watch it sprout.
If you live in an area where the soil isn’t as friendly, you’ll need to use soil amendments (fertilizer, lime, sea kelp, etc.) to balance the pH before you can plant anything.
When you want to know how to take care of different types of trees, you’ll want to know what climate zone you’re in. The U.S. Department of Agriculture designates different climates zones to help determine what plants and crops can grow under certain conditions.
For example, if you live in a tropical or subtropical climate, then you won’t be able to grow cranberries — they require cool air. The same goes for trying to grow citrus fruit in New Jersey or Massachusetts.
That’s why it’s so important to research which climate zone you live in — check out the map here — before you purchase and plant anything. This is also helpful in determining the best time of year to put your trees in the ground. In most places, early spring is the best time to plant deciduous trees and late fall/early winter is the best time to plant conifers.
Confused about what types of trees you already have in your yard? You’re not alone. There are far too many types of trees in the world to list specifics on how to identify each species. But, armed with a little knowledge and a few resources, it should be fairly easy to figure it out on your own.
First, determine whether the tree is coniferous or deciduous. Once you’ve done that, you’ve cut the search in half. Books on tree species, especially books specific to your area, are usually the best way to figure out what you have. They describe colors and shapes of leaves, height, branch structures, bark, seasonal growth and a number of other attributes.
If you have something totally obscure in your yard, then a local arborist/tree surgeon or a call to the agriculture department at your local college should yield an answer. In fact, most university websites have a treasure trove of research materials on local flora and fauna.
If all else fails, you can actually find apps that help. Download and use an app like LeafSnap to upload a photo of a leaf and in return get an authoritative guess at what species of tree the leaf came from.
Pruning is quite possibly the most overlooked aspect of caring for trees. How you prune is going to depend on what you have, but there are a few rules of thumb that might be helpful.
It’s typically best to trim deciduous trees continually throughout the year. The most important times are during early spring and the beginning of summer. You should prune in late spring, autumn and winter, too, but early spring and early summer are more important to the long-term health of the tree. You need to clear off dead growth from the winter in early spring, and then remove weak growth from spring in early summer.
Unlike conifers, which only require pruning to look pretty, deciduous trees need to be pruned in order to promote healthy growth. How did trees survive millions of years without humans pruning them? Your guess is as good as mine.
Final Thoughts on How to Take Care of Different Types of Trees
If you want a tree to grow, you need to make sure you take care of it. And, if you’re going to take care of it, you should do as much research as possible to ensure success. Buy books on the specific trees in your yard and follow their instructions on care as closely as possible. As long as you do that, you should have no problems at all.
Anything to add to these tips? Send us a message through our contact page, or share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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