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  • Michael Rochester

Tree and Shrub Spring Maintenance

Trees can grow very well without any assistance. But if you have them as part of your landscape, then you want your trees and shrubs to be healthy and look nice. With spring around the corner, it is time to inspect your landscape and spruce up where this is necessary.

Follow these steps to help ensure a good growing year for your trees and shrubs.

Spring Cleaning

Start the new growing season with a spring cleaning.

  • If you haven't cleaned up you Christmas decorations, remove any remaining decorative holiday lights. You risk girdling growth and damaging the tree.

  • When temperatures warm, remove any protective winter wraps you placed around trunks.

  • Clean up any debris under the trees and shrubs, such as twigs, leaves or fallen fruits. This is especially important with trees susceptible to fungal diseases, which can overwinter on debris. Examples include pines affected by diplodia tip blight or crab apples affected by apple scab.

Mulch

A layer of mulch helps soil retain moisture and suppresses weeds. It is the most important during a tree's first ten years of life. It is also OK for older trees also.

  • Put a 3-inch-thick layer around trees but not against the trunk. Mulch piled against the trunk holds moisture and heat, which helps give diseases such as canker an easy point of access.

Water

Wait until soil thaws to tackle watering chores.

  • Deeply water trees located in areas where de-icing materials were used over winter. Irrigating moves salt-laden materials through soil and away from tree roots. The sides of major highways and along town and city streets may have a buildup of these chemicals.

  • Even though the weather is cool, don’t allow trees to dry out. You may have to water several times if weather warms or if you have sandy soil.

  • If you use a sprinkler system, check that it is good working order. Adjust sprinkler heads if necessary. Sprinklers shouldn’t spray water onto foliage of trees susceptible to fungal diseases.

Prune

The ideal time to prune most trees is during winter dormancy. There are some exceptions though. Click here to learn more about: How to Prune Trees.

  • You can, however, remove any dead, damaged or broken branches in spring. If you’re unsure whether a branch is dead, wait until the tree leafs out. Dead branches are easy to spot once leaves unfurl. Dead branches can be removed anytime.

Inspect

Before leaves appear, inspect tree trunks and branches, looking for signs of disease or damage.

  • Look for rabbit or mice damage near the base of trunks. These winter pests also eat the bark off of branches when the snow is deep enough. If damage is present, erect a fine-mesh screen to prevent further damage, and monitor the tree’s health over time.

  • Look for bark that is flaking off of the tree. This indicates disease.

  • Look for insect damage such as holes. If you do spot something unusual, contact a forester to receive tree care advice.

Pests and Diseases

There are many pests and diseases that affect trees and shrubs. Insect pests may not be evident in the spring. You should occasionally inspect your trees and shrubs and look for anything unusual or damaging. The latest report on "Insect & Disease Conditions for Maine" put out by the "State of Maine" can be found here. There is a lot of good information and pictures: Maine Report. I have a list of the various pests and diseases listed on my site and that can be found here: Insects and Diseases.

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