Watering. It is very important for your new plantings to be watered regularly. However, the type of soil and the weather conditions should determine how frequently and how much you water. Never water automatically without first checking the soil to determine if watering is needed. Trees and shrubs should be kept damp but not muddy during the growing season. The best way to check the dampness is to dig under the mulch to see if the ground is damp. If you find it is dry, the plant should be watered. Adequately moistened soil should form a ball when squeezed.
Care should be taken not to overwater as this may result in oxygen deprivation which will kill your tree. Sandy soils generally will need to be watered more frequently than clay soils, but always check first. Since roots grow where oxygen and water are most available, short and frequent waterings will result in the development of a shallow root system. To encourage a deep and healthy root system that will be able to withstand environmental stress, water deeply, thoroughly. and only as needed.
In early fall, decrease watering to help signal plants to begin their winter acclimation. Then in late fall, increase watering to provide plants with the water they need to withstand winter winds. Continue to water plants thoroughly until the soil freezes up. At times during the winter, trees and shrubs may require water if the weather has thawed the ground and we have had no moisture.
Fertilizing. Do not fertilize until late fall or early spring. Spring is the time of year when plants have their greatest flush of growth, and therefore their greatest need for nutrients. Fertilizer may be applied in spring before the plants begins to break from dormancy or in late fall after the leaves have dropped. For the first two years, liquid or granular fertilizer applied in the mulched area will benefit the root system. After the plant has established a strong root system, it may benefit from being fertilized every few years with either mild slow-release fertilizer stakes or deep root feeding. Water thoroughly both before and after fertilizing.
Mulch. Maintain 3-4" of mulch throughout the year. Keep the mulch 1-2" away from the trunk of the tree. Mulching retains soil moisture and helps prevent wide fluctuations in soil temperatures throughout the year. Mulching also inhibits the growth of weeds, and reduces the risk of mechanical injury to the plants.
Wrapping. To help protect against sunscald on young trees or thin-barked species such as maples and honeylocusts, use a commercial tree wrap in fall. Wrap from the base of the tree up to the first major branch and fasten at the top with a tack. Using a prous wrap will protect the tree while still allowing the passage of gases and liquid through the material. Always remove the wrap in spring. Never leave it on through the growing season or you will put the tree at risk of disease, insect infestation, and moisture buildup.
Pruning. Use restraint when pruning your newly planted trees. Prune only to remove damaged or broken branches. Trimming may be done after one year of growth on young deciduous trees to improve growing habit. Pruning should be done again after a few years, and then at 2 to 3 year intervals or as needed to maintain a sound growing habit. Do not use a pruning sealer. It will heal most effectively if allowed to heal naturally.
Staking. Stakes and ties should be removed as soon as the tree becomes established--normally one full season of growth. Stakes should be loose enough to allow the tree some sway in the wind, but tight enough that the tree does not rub on the stakes.