0625HORTcolumnJune26.cfm 10 myths about trees
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10 myths about trees

Myth #1: Before planting a tree, prune living branches so the crown size is in balance with the root ball.

Truth: It is not recommended to remove any live branches when planting trees. Live twigs, branches, and trunks contain reserves of stored energy in the form of starch or oil. Removing them reduces energy reserves. Remove only dead and injured branches before planting.

Myth #2: Planting trees deep encourages strong, deep roots.

Truth: Never plant any tree, shrub or otherwise, deeper than the top of its root ball. It is also important to make sure that the top root of the plant is at or very near the surface of the root ball. Improper planting is the number one cause for tree and shrub death.

Myth #3: Always stake trees after planting.

Truth: Trees will be stronger if not staked. The movement of young trees by wind strengthens them by encouraging root growth. If the planting site is constantly windy, stake loosely after planting but, be sure to remove stakes in 6 - 12 months.

Myth #4: A thick mulch layer is good for trees.

Truth: Roots will begin to grow into mulch that is too deep. During hot days the mulch will dry out before the soil below it, and since those roots cannot obtain water, the tree suffers. Mulch should be only two to three inches deep should not be in contact with the trunk of the tree.

Myth #5: Trees continuously grow forming wood from bud break to leaf drop.

Truth: Ninety percent of annual tree growth occurs six to eight weeks after leaves are formed. Early spring defoliation by disease or insects usually will not kill a tree but will have a major impact on that year's growth.

Myth #6: Ants contribute to tree decay.

Truth: Ants make nests in trees but do not feed on them. Ants actually help slow decay by building their nests in areas where they remove rotting wood from the inside of the trunk.

Myth #7: Tree wounds can heal.

Truth: Healing is the repair of damaged tissue. Trees cannot heal damaged tissue. Instead they wall off damaged areas from healthy areas through a process known as compartmentalization. This is their defense mechanism. The damaged tissue (decay) will remain isolated within the tree for life.

Myth #8: Topping is good for trees.

Truth: After planting too deep, topping is the next major cause for tree decline and death. Topping creates weakened, stressed trees that are unsafe. NEVER top trees.

Myth #9: Wounds & pruning cuts should have tree wound paint applied to aid healing.

Truth: Tree wound paint does not prevent rot and in some cases promotes it by sealing in moisture. Do not paint wounds or pruning cuts.

Myth #10: Make pruning cuts flush with remaining branch or trunk.

Truth: Flush cuts destroy the tree cells that seal off the wound from the healthy part of the tree. Pruning cuts should be made on the outside of the branch collar. The branch collar is identified by a raised ring of bark that is formed when trunk and branch bark meet and push up slightly.

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