The Spring Tree Care Checklist: 5 Steps To Take Now

Spring is just around the corner, and there is still time to perform the spring tree care checklist. The steps you take today toward improving the health of your trees will pay off tremendously in the Spring and Summer. Below are several steps to ensure your trees have a good head start on a healthy growing season.

Spring Fertilization – Complete a soil test before fertilizing in the spring. It’s essential to know the nutritional levels of the soil before applying fertilizer. These tests are completed quickly and provide accurate, detailed instructions for a fertilization program. If you are unsure how to take soil samples from your property, here is a great article that shows how. A qualified Ag lab should be used for analysis. Multiple samples should be taken from around the property. The samples should come from a depth of 4 to 8 inches. It is okay to combine the soil samples into one bag. This is called a composite analysis. A soil core tube is excellent for gathering samples and testing soil moisture throughout the season. A pint of soil in a Ziplock back works well. If you use multiple bags, carefully identify them, so the lab provides specific data for each location. The lab should interpret data for your property and offer details for a fertilizer program. There is a screen for excessive chemicals and salt too.

Before leaf emergence is the best time to fertilize trees; the later you wait, the less amount the nutrients have on the outcome of the season. Any time before bud breaks up to the end of April. Most urban trees need little fertilizer. They need a little nitrogen and a modest amount of phosphorus and potassium. A 3-1-1 ratio of nutrition works well. If you can find a 15 – 5 – 5 fertilizer or in this 3-1-1 ratio is good for tree growth.

Should I Prune In Spring – Pruning should have been accomplished by springtime. Spring is not a good time to prune. Pruning in spring takes bud growth, and the danger of damaging the bark is severe due to bark slipping. You can remove dead branches from trees in the spring, but the best time to prune trees is in the winter.

Can I Help My Trees Battle The Wind – If the tree is pruned correctly through a training process to thin the crown so the wind can move through the tree more easily, wind damage will be less. Sometimes Mother Nature provides high winds that can’t be battled, but thinning the crown helps protect your trees from toppling under many circumstances.

How To Deal With Salt In The Soil – If your soil has high salt content or requires a good maintenance program to prevent salt buildup, regular leaching of soil is recommended. Leaching soil is accomplished by an irrigation system with an extra application of water periodically. Tree roots typically extend as much as 24 inches into the ground. Therefore, regularly running irrigation long enough to push the salt past the root zone helps improve this situation.

Is Painting Tree Trunks Necessary – Painting citrus tree trucks white is an old school tried and true process. Painting the trucks white reduces the warming of the trunk during the day and reflects sunlight to moderate the changes in the trunk’s temperature. Apply white latex paint (water soluble) watered down to the consistency of milk up to the original branches. This should be done about the middle of March and then reapply in May. The trunk grows and expands in spring, and the May application protects the new growth areas and cracks. This should be done with citrus and all fruit trees. This also reduces insect infestations into the trucks of the trees because this reduces trunk damage where insects may enter the tree.

Our care and maintenance of trees are limited by how many hours we have to maintain them. Focusing on these five steps significantly adds to the season’s success. Below is a video that covers these steps in even more detail. If you have tips of your own you want to share, please add them to the comments section.


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