First Year Tree Care

Planning on adding a few new trees to your garden this year? Trees provide beauty, a habitat for wildlife and can reduce your energy bills by providing cover to your home, but like a child, they need to be cared for in their early years in order for them to grow into tall, strong adult trees.

A tree’s roots are severely damaged by the transplant process. The root system’s size can be cut by up to 95 percent, causing what is known as ‘transplant shock.’ This causes slowed growth or even a cessation of growth in the first year. It also leaves the young plant susceptible to high winds and rain, too much or too little watering, winter weather, disease and pests. Healthy, extensive root systems support healthy top growth by reaching deep and wide to access water and minerals in the soil and by anchoring the plant against wind and rain. It can take up to three years for a tree’s roots to completely recover.


Because of its damage root system, a young tree must have regular and controlled watering. Use a deep watering method to promote deep root growth. Water every second day for the first two weeks, twice a week for the next month and weekly after. Monitor weather conditions to determine whether more or less watering is needed. If you aren’t sure, place a finger and inch under the soil, if the soil is dry then it is time for another watering.


Fertilization can help promote root growth in a new tree. Try a slow release fertilizer like Nature’s Balance 231, which also enhances biological activity in the soil by providing soil microbes and fungi with the natural organic nutrients, proteins, minerals, and oils which plants need to thrive.


Without the ability to anchor into the ground, new trees can be easily damaged by hard winds, rain and its own growth. Top heavy or lanky trees especially need to be staked in order for them not to grow to one side or to be toppled over. Run wire or string through pieces of rubber or plastic hose where it touches the tree. Exposed wire or string can cut into the bark and kill your tree or the trunk can grow around it. Remove the stakes when the tree no longer needs their help, after two or three years.

Winter Care

Gradually reduce and stop watering and fertilizing as fall approaches to allow your tree to harden before winter. Invest in a plastic or fabric tree wrap and wrap it around the trunk. This will protect your tree from the winter sun, frost cracking and damage done by animals looking for a winter meal. You may also want to provide a barrier from animals with a small wire fence place around its diameter.

It takes a village to raise a tree, but the hard work is well worth it. With proper care and attention your tree will grow big and strong, providing you with beauty, shade and the fruits of its growth. 

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