How to Care for Your Trees

Tree Inspection

Tree inspection is an evaluation tool that can call attention to any change in the tree's health before the problem is too serious. During tree inspection, be sure to examine four characteristics of tree vigor: new leaves or buds, leaf size, twig growth, and absence of crown dieback (gradual death of the upper part of the tree).

A reduction in the extension of shoots (new growing parts) is a reliable cue that the tree's health has recently changed.

Further signs of poor tree health are trunk decay and or crown dieback. Loose bark or deformed growths are common signs of decay.

Any abnormalities found, including insect activity, should be noted and watched closely. If you are uncertain of what should be done, report your findings to your local arborist for advice.


Mulching can reduce environmental stress by providing trees with a stable root environment that is cooler and contains more moisture. Mulch also prevents damage by machinery such as lawnmowers and trimmers.

Mulch should be placed 2 to 4 inches deep and cover the entire root system, which may extend 2 times the diameter of the branch spread of the tree. Examples of organic mulch are shredded leaves, peat moss, or wood chips. Plastic should not be used because it interferes with the exchange of gases between soil and air.


Trees require certain nutrients to function and grow. Urban trees may be growing in soils lacking in nutrients. In these situations it may be necessary to fertilize to improve plant vigor.

Fertilizing can improve growth, but if fertilizer is not applied wisely, it may not benefit the tree or have adverse effects on the tree. Mature trees making satisfactory growth may not require fertilizer. It is important to know which nutrients are needed and when and how the fertilizer should be applied. Understanding the actual, size and extent of a tree's root system before you fertilize is necessary to determine how much, what type, and where to apply fertilizer.


There are some circumstances when tree removal is necessary. An arborist can help you decide whether or not a tree should be removed. Removal is recommended when a tree is dead, or dying, is causing an obstruction or is crowding other trees, or is to be replaced with a more suitable specimen or should be removed to allow for construction.

Additional information is available from the Trees Are Good website.