5 common landscaping decisions that can actually damage your trees

5 common landscaping decisions that can actually damage your trees
After about a year staking a tree is typically unnecessary

After about a year staking a tree is typically unnecessary

Sometimes your best landscaping intentions can actually be harmful to your trees.

Most of the time, you probably won’t even know if a tree is in trouble. Short-term damage is obvious, but long-term damage usually isn’t.

If you don’t know what to look for when planting a tree or how to choose the proper placement, you won’t be able to stop before it’s too late. Here are some common ways trees can be harmed by purposeful acts with unintended consequences:

Stake sparingly

Staking and mulching seem to come naturally to even the beginning tree planter. Both can be beneficial when done properly. But they can also be destructive when overdone or not done properly.

Most tree species don’t need staking, and if they do, they need only minimal support for a short time. If you must stake, be sure to check the tension periodically to avoid bark damage. And remove the staking material when the tree is established, usually within one year.

Keep in mind that staking can also cause abnormal trunk growth and girdling and could cause a tree to become top heavy.

Mulch responsibly

I’m a big fan of mulch rings for trees. It not only looks nice, but it also protects the roots and helps hold moisture. It also keeps mowers and trimmers at a safe distance from damaging the bark.

Be mindful, however, of the amount of mulch you place at the base of the tree trunk. Applying too much — more than 4 inches — can hinder root and bark function. One technique is to create a “moat” around the base of the trunk leaving a trench a few inches deep.

Don’t girdle your trees

Girdling is the process of intentionally — or unintentionally — removing or damaging the bark encircling the tree.

Lumber companies intentionally girdle a tree so that it dies and is then cut down for lumber.

You may unintentionally girdle a tree with dog chains looped around the base, wires for clotheslines, unchecked staking material or ropes. The constant movement of dog chains rub and saw through the bark. The other materials don’t expand with the tree as it grows and eventually they’ll girdle it.

The pressure from the girdling cuts off food and water movement, which seriously weakens and could potentially kill the tree. In some instances, the trunk swells, grows over the material and heals so that it looks like it has survived. However, the damage is done and the trunk is forever weakened at that point.

Avoid the power lines

Usually there’s a zoning issue when it comes to planting anything under a power line. Either way, don’t take any chances.

Eventually the tree will no longer be a sapling. Your local power company will have no sympathy when they send their crews to saw off the top of your tree to keep it away from their wires.

Give it space

If you are going to plant a tree, be sure to know its space and growth requirements. Maintenance or removal can become costly and time-consuming.

Some trees can suffer from too much shade or too-wet conditions and vice-versa.

It’s also good to know how tall and wide a tree is meant to grow at its full potential. Always avoid planting trees that will outgrow the space provided.

Poor tree placement can become a real issue 5 or 10 years down the road. It could damage building foundations; water and utility lines; and walkways or patios, not to mention overcrowd your other ornamental trees or shrubs.

Consult a highly rated landscaper or garden center if you aren’t sure of a certain tree’s requirements.

It’s very tempting to put those beautiful evergreen trees at the corner of your house not knowing that in 10 years, you won’t even be able to see your house.

Be nice to your trees. Plant them where they belong, so they can grow to their full potential and perform as they were meant to.

About this Angie’s List Expert: Jenn Stumer is the owner of Appalachian Creations, Inc., providing landscaping services in Northampton, Pa. Since 2001, Appalachian Creations has specialized in landscape and hardscape design, installation and maintenance, as well as property maintenance and yard work.

As of March 27, 2014, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.

 


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