8 Tree Care Tips for Spring - An Arborist’s Guide

February 7, 2024

As we transition into spring, the focus on tree care shifts significantly, requiring a blend of precision, foresight, and specialized knowledge. The vitality of our trees depends not just on basic maintenance but on a deeper understanding of their biological needs and environmental interactions.

This guide, which was designed in partnership with a local arborist, delves into advanced arboricultural techniques, moving beyond common knowledge to explore the nuanced practices that can significantly enhance the health and longevity of trees. Each tip is designed to address specific aspects of tree care that are often overlooked but are crucial for sustainable landscape management.

Root Flare Excavation

The root flare, where the trunk expands at the base of the tree, often becomes buried under soil or mulch, leading to root rot and girdling roots. In the spring, perform a careful excavation of the root flare using an air spade, a tool that uses compressed air to remove soil without damaging tree roots. This promotes healthier root growth and overall tree vitality.

Proper Mulching Techniques

While mulching is commonly recommended for moisture retention and weed control, improper mulching can suffocate tree roots, attract pests, and encourage fungal diseases. Apply a 2-3 inch layer of organic mulch, such as wood chips, ensuring it's not in contact with the trunk. Create a "mulch volcano" to allow for proper air and water exchange at the root zone.

Selective Pruning


Spring is an opportune time for structural pruning, especially for young trees to guide their growth. Utilize the technique of "subordination" where competing leaders (main upward-growing branches) are selectively pruned to promote a single, dominant leader. This prevents structural weaknesses and future storm damage. Always adhere to the 1/3 rule, never removing more than one-third of the tree’s canopy at once.

Phytophthora Root Rot Prevention

Spring's wet conditions can exacerbate Phytophthora root rot, a soil-borne fungus. Ensure proper drainage around the tree's base and avoid overwatering. Applying a fungicidal treatment specifically labeled for Phytophthora spp. can mitigate risk, especially in susceptible species like dogwoods and maples.

Soil Decompaction

Soil compaction limits oxygen availability to tree roots and impedes water infiltration. Utilize vertical mulching or radial trenching techniques around the tree’s drip line. These methods involve drilling holes or trenches in the soil and backfilling them with porous materials (e.g., compost and gravel) to improve aeration and water penetration.

Pest Management

Before applying any pesticide, conduct a thorough pest and disease assessment. Use targeted treatments based on the specific pest or disease identified, favoring biological controls and cultural practices over chemical interventions. Monitor pest populations with traps or visual inspections to apply treatments judiciously, reducing harm to non-target species and the environment.

Supplemental Watering Strategy

While spring generally provides ample moisture, understanding when to supplement watering is crucial for newly planted or stressed trees. Implement a slow, deep-watering technique, which encourages deeper root growth. Use soil moisture meters to gauge the need for watering, focusing on the critical root zone, not just the area near the trunk.

Growth Regulator Applications

Consider the use of plant growth regulators (PGRs) for mature trees in confined spaces or to reduce the frequency of pruning. PGRs can moderate growth while enhancing root development and drought tolerance. Apply according to the product's label, usually as a soil drench or trunk injection, to promote overall tree health and stability.

When to call a professional?

For specialized care or any concerns that arise during your spring inspection, seeking advice from a certified arborist is invaluable. Tree services professionals are equipped to address complex tree health issues, offering services from pruning to pest management tailored to the unique ecosystems. If anything, they can help you remove any guesswork around tree care management.

Want more?

These tips incorporate advanced arboricultural practices and the latest research in tree care, emphasizing the importance of a nuanced approach to managing tree health and growth.

For more information about Tree Care you can head over to Siskiyou Tree Experts website.


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