2006-03-31 / Beauty in the Backyard

The Top 5 Myths of Tree Care

By The International Society of Arboriculture

Should you prune your trees in the spring? How deep must fertilizer be applied to reach the roots of your trees? Which species of trees should be topped to keep them from falling on your house? Most homeowners treasure the trees on their property but know little about how to care for them. Much of what you may have heard about tree care is actually incorrect based on myths and misconceptions. Here are the top 10 myths of tree care.

1 When a tree is planted it should be securely staked to ensure the development of a stable root system and a strong trunk.

Although it is sometimes necessary to stake trees to keep them upright and allow establishment, there are some adverse effects of staking. Compared to staked trees, unstaked trees tend to develop a more extensive root system and better trunk taper. Allowing a small amount of movement can help root and trunk development. Of course, the worst effect of staking is the possibility of trunk damage from the staking wires or ties. Staking materials usually should be removed after one year to avoid "girdling" the tree.

2Newly planted trees should have their trunks wrapped with tree wrap to prevent sunscald and insect entry.

Studies using most common tree wraps have shown that they do not prevent extreme fluctuations in temperature on the bark. In some cases, the temperature extremes are worse. Also, tree wraps have proven quite ineffective in preventing insect entry. In fact, some insects like to burrow under it.

3Trees should be pruned back heavily when they are planted to compensate for the loss of roots.

Tree establishment is best on unpruned trees. Although pruning the top can reduce the amount of water that evaporates from the leaves, the tree needs a full crown to produce the much- needed food and the plant hormones that induce root growth. The tree will develop a stronger, more extensive root system if it has a fuller crown. Limit pruning at the time of planting to structural training and the removal of damaged branches.

4 When removing a branch from a tree, the final cut should be flush with the stem to optimize healing.

Trees don't heal in the sense that wounds on people heal. Our bodies regenerate tissues in much the same form of the tissues that were removed (to a limited extent). Trees compartmentalize wounds, generating woundwood over the wounded area. Flush cutting removes the branch collar, creating a larger wound than if the branch were removed outside the collar. Also, it is likely that some of the parent branch tissue will be removed. The spread of decay inside the tree is greater with flush cuts.

5Pruning wounds greater than three inches in diameter should be painted with a wound dressing.

Research has shown that the common wound dressings do not inhibit decay, do not prevent insect entry, and do not bring about faster wound closure. In fact, many of the commonly used dressings slow wound closure.

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