In urban areas around the country, trees have a hard life. On average an urban tree’s life expectancy is only 8 years. That same tree in a forest or even the countryside might easily live to be a hundred years old. City trees face hard impervious surfaces, overhead utility lines, urban infrastructure, pests and other conditions that make it tough.
While most city trees don’t make it to age ten, trees CAN live to be 300 to 5,000 years old. California Bristlecone Pines and Giant Sequoias are regarded as the oldest trees on Earth and have been known to live 4,000 to 5,000 years.
Urban trees need the following maintenance and care in order to have the best chance at survival.
1) Mulching should be conducted annually or as needed, starting when the tree is just a seedling, that is has a stem of less than ½ inch in diameter and is just beginning to sprout and develop into a tree. It should continue throughout the rest of the tree’s lifetime. This will help with weed control, soil insulation and aeration, and overall promotion of tree health.
2) Pruning of trees should start when they are saplings – that is during a tree’s teenage years, the stage where they are young, rapidly growing, are several feet tall with a trunk under one foot in diameter. Pruning should be continued annually or as needed through maturity and old age. This is an important part of tree care leading to healthy trees that are safe, improving form and aesthetics as the tree grows.
3) Cabling and bracing should be done when a tree is a seedling and in its old age. These are times when trees need the most support. This will help control directional growth and is important for safety by providing support for unstable trunks or branches.
4) Deep-root fertilization should start once a tree is fully developed (between 10s to 100s of feet tall) and will keep your tree healthy, provide it with greater nutrient absorption and provide it beneficial fungi and other microorganisms to thrive.
5) Watering a tree is especially important during a tree’s formative years, during the summer or drought years. However each tree is different and you must consider a number of factors including tree species and soil conditions. A study by Dr. K. D. Coder states that “eighty to ninety percent of the variation in tree growth is because of water supply problems.” A certified arborist can provide you with the proper instructions for your tree.
Providing your tree with these important care processes will help you grow and maintain a healthy and thriving tree that can pay you back by providing shade to lower your energy costs, beauty to improve your property value, and much more. It’s not easy being green but it does pay to be green!