Young Tree Care

Proper selection, placement, planting, water management, mulch, and pruning are important to growing young trees into old trees. Young trees are not supposed to look like old trees. The bark is not hardened, branches should be retained along the trunk, and one leader should guide the growth. Most maintenance can be performed by trained folks with simple gardening tools such as hand pruners, loppers, and hand saws.

Young tree pruning involves selecting and maintaining a central leader, leaving low lateral branches along the main trunk, and reducing competing or co-dominant stems and branches. The intent is to retain as many of the leaves as possible to "feed" the tree and shade the tender bark. Branch attachments should be managed to avoid narrow crotches or included bark. Temporary branches can be headed back and then removed before they get too large.

Tree planting starts with excellent nursery stock that either has a sound root system, or the roots need to be pruned and straightened prior to planting. The trees need to be planted at the correct depth so the trunk flare is approximately 1 inch above grade. The root system needs to receive adequate moisture and the watering pattern needs to expand as the root system grows from the original root ball.

Young trees should be pruned so as many leaves as possible are retained. The branches can be pruned in stages over time; we should make a lot of visits performing small pruning cuts to manage branch length and attachment points. Most commercial arborists don't get to properly manage young trees because clients only invite them to the property once a year. Young trees do not have to be pruned by an arborist, as long as the person holding the hand pruners has received basic young tree pruning training.