Caring for a new tree during the first three years it is planted is important to its survival. You may not see much happening above ground in the first year, but the roots are getting established to prepare the tree for growth. Here are some additional tips to keep your new tree happy and healthy.
Using mulch is one of the best things you can do for your tree. Pine needles, grass clippings, shredded bark, or wood chips placed over the soil helps to retain moisture, minimize weeds, and improve soil conditions. Spread a layer three to four inches deep. and leave a ring of open space around the trunk so that mulch doesn’t touch it.
Prune your tree sparingly, and never “top” it. Topping creates weak, poorly attached sprouts that grow quickly and break off easily. Topping also leaves ugly stubs that are vulnerable to insects and disease. Instead, use the “branch collar” pruning method. Cut the limb close to the main trunk but leave a small “collar” of the branch sticking up. This will allow the tree to heal more quickly. Properly sharpened tools also help the tree heal quicker.
Don’t prune every year. Thin top branches every three to five years, and remove dead or damaged limbs whenever you see them. Do major trimming after the coldest part of winter is past, except for trees that flower in the spring: these do best when pruned after their blooms drop.