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Tree Care
Establishment Brochure

Tree-Planting Education

Tree Support

Tree support, if needed, can be provided by staking, which stabilizes the root ball and supports the tree until it can stand alone. Stakes and ties should be progressively reduced in height to a point where the trunk does not bend when unsupported. This adjustment should occur after the tree is in full foliage (because of structural damage that could occur because of wind). Bare root trees, which are grown in nursery fields rather than in containers, may not require staking. With a few exceptions, most trees will be properly developed within two seasons and able to stand without staking. Often, short stakes (18" - 24") without ties are left or placed around the tree to protect against mechanical damage from mowers and string trimmers.

Pruning & Training

Proper pruning is essential to ensure a structurally strong, attractive mature tree. Pruning needs vary by specie and not all trees should be pruned the same. Generally speaking, creation of a main stem or leader is desirable, with the scaffold branches spaced vertically and radially on the trunk. This spacing also varies by specie: medium sized trees should have 6" - 8" between permanent limbs while large growing trees should have at least 18" vertical separation. When removing a branch, the pruning cut should be in branch tissue just beyond the branch bark ridge and the collar (see below). Normally, limbs being removed will be smaller in diameter than the main trunk or parent branch to which they are attached.


If your new tree is planted in the lawn, keep turf cleared at least one foot from the trunk. The lawn watering should supply enough water for young trees, but check the tree in between waterings to make sure it's not wilting. If it is wilting, water lightly between turf irrigation for the first few months. Use caution not to over-water or saturate the soil.

For trees in bare soil or shrub beds, begin watering 3-4 weeks after new growth begins. Water weekly for two months and then every two weeks for the rest of the season. Irrigating once very 2-3 weeks the second year should be adequate. Remember to increase the amount of water, while watering on a less frequent schedule as the root system develops.

Additional Care

  • Eliminate competitive grasses, weeds, and ground cover within 12" of the trunk.
  • Maintain 3-4" of mulch around the base of the tree, but not against the trunk where rot can occur.
  • DO NOT use string trimmers near trees/trunks -- it can be lethal.
  • Remove or shorten vigorous shoots along the trunk, but maintain small branches to strengthen the trunk and protect it from sunburn and vandalism.
  • Inspect regularly for insects and disease.
  • Ensure your tree is still properly staked.
  • Trees usually respond only to nitrogen (N); additional fertilizers are needed only if other deficiencies have been identified. Ammonium sulfate with 20% N generally will provide the necessary requirements when spread evenly above the root zone: 2nd year - 1/2 cup (*); 3rd year - 3/4 cup; 4th year - 1 cup. (*) or equivalent amount of nitrogen (N), e.g. 1/4 cup urea (40%N)
  • Pull mulch back to fertilize. Replace after application.

Plant Selection & Planting

This brochure assumes that your tree has been selected and planted in accordance with the TREE PLANTING guide available from TREE Davis.

Benefits of Trees

Trees provide ...

  • cooling and shade
  • landscape beautification
  • wildlife habitat
  • windbreaks
  • increased property value

Tools and Materials

  • Shovel or rake to maintain basin and mulch.
  • Pruning shears to remove dead/damaged branches.
  • Sledge hammer or post pounder, if using stakes.
  • Hammer and nails to attach tree tie tape to stakes.
  • Mulching material.
  • Water source.
  • Fertilizer (optional).

Where To Go For Help

TREE Davis
P.O. Box 72053
Davis, CA 95617
(530) 758-7337

  • Arboriculture, 2nd Edition, RW Harris, Prentice Hall.
  • Sunset Western Garden Book
  • Local University of California Cooperative Extension Horticulture Advisor
  • Local nursery, landscape, and tree care professionals.

TREE Davis: (530) 758-7337,
P.O. Box 72053 Davis CA 95617

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