It’s easy to forget trees. You plant them, then you tend to leave them to get on with the job of growing.
But trees, especially recently-planted specimens, need help to achieve their potential, and as winter approaches, it’s time to think not what a tree can do for you but what you can do for a tree.
In the wet and windy weather of a British autumn, your first priority should be trees planted in the last three years.
These youngsters often have roots that have not developed fully. As a result, they are not yet anchored firmly into the ground and are particularly at risk from extreme weather conditions.
Signs of wind stress vary according to tree species and age, but watch out for young trees leaning to one side, away from prevailing wind direction; those with splits at a weak fork, and with broken or splintered branches
Spotting signs of damage to a tree from waterlogged soils can be difficult because trees in general are slow to show symptoms. Just look out for trees whose leaves turn yellow early and start to fall before those of their neighbours. Small leaf size and dead twigs and leaves at the ends of branches can also be pointers to poor drainage.
Tips for caring for young trees in unsettled weather:
Check regularly to ensure that the tree hasn’t been damaged by bad weather.
After stormy weather, check for abrasion on the bark caused by rubbing against the stake or loose ties. Replace the stake or re-tie the ties to prevent further abrasion.
If a stake has been snapped by the tree moving in windy weather, replace it and re-tie.
To prevent newly-planted trees from being rocked backwards and forwards and becoming loose, stake them firmly back in place if necessary.
On windy sites, two or three stakes can be inserted opposite each other, or equally spaced around the tree outside the root ball, and secured to the trunk by long ties or a timber crossbar and tie.
If windy conditions have caused the tree to lean to one side or to become top heavy, reset or shorten the stake and replace the tie at the top of the stake to ensure the stem stands upright.
If your trees survive wind damage or waterlogging, remove any dead or damaged limbs once the bark has dried out.
Mulching can help to reduce compaction and soil erosion after heavy rain.