How to Keep Mature Trees Healthy Throughout the Years

A mature tree is a thing to be treasured, and if the tree is in the right place and the right climate it needs very little help from humans. Still, there are things a property owner can do to keep a mature tree thriving during those inevitable hard times. Here are a few of them:

Unless the tree is in a woodland garden, mulch it regularly. Mulch keeps in moisture during dry spells and discourages the growth of weeds. Mulch can be anything from pine straw to bark chips to old, used coffee beans and ground up coconut husks. Just leavea margin of one to two inches around the trunk of the tree, and spread the mulch at least three feet out in a circle. Mulch can even be applied out to the tree’s drip line, and for older trees that can be a few dozen feet.

Don’t Overwater
A mature tree usually does not need to be watered. Indeed, overwatering can damage it. Even if the weather gets a bit droughty, tree owners should refrain from watering a large, mature tree. They should also be careful with fertilizer. A tree that’s been around for 40 or 50 years knows where to get nutrients, and the application of fertilizer may injure its roots. Herbicides also should not be applied near the tree. If herbicide must be applied to the lawn, keep it outside the area that’s been mulched.

Be Careful With New Construction
Very few things kill old trees faster than new construction. Excavating equipment needs to be used with care. Consider that the root systems of some mature trees are twice as wide as their crowns.

Keep Machinery Away From the Tree In General
Cars and other heavy vehicles should not be parked under trees because they compact the soil. Eventually, the roots are strangled, and the tree dies. Keep lawn mowers and weed whackers a healthy distance away from trees. They can cause injuries that provide a way in for pathogens.

If the soil around the tree is compacted, it can be loosened and aerated. However, this needs to be done with great care to avoid damaging the roots.

Don’t Prune Too Much
Though younger trees can benefit from pruning to improve their looks and allow air to circulate, most mature trees don’t need too much pruning. Remove dead or diseased branches, and trim branches that are rubbing against each other. Also, remove suckers, which steal nutrients from the rest of the tree. The best way to do this is to tear them out with bare0 hands.

A large old tree with a mess of tangled branches may need the services of a tree surgeon, who can climb up into the tree using safety harnesses, and prune its branches safely with special equipment.

Pay Attention
Know what sort of diseases and pests attack a particular tree, and keep a look-out for them. There are several books and on-line sites that help identify problems. They also have remedies for solving them.


Evan Shaner