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After years in the wilderness, slow growing dwarf conifers are now coming back into fashion. They are easy to grow, require practically no maintenance and offer year round interest. Conifers can be grown as single specimens or in groups, in a mixed border with other shrubs, perennials and bulbs or in a special conifer area, where a variety of forms can be combined to good effect. Although an evergreen conifer display is very low maintenance and looks good all year, it can seem static, because it remains exactly the same from one season to the next.
The best time to plant conifers is mid spring, when the soil is moist and starting to warm up. This allows the plants to establish before the onset of winter. However, container grown conifers can also be planted at other times of year, particularly early autumn, provided they are kept well watered in summer and protected from cold winds in winter.
If the weather or soil conditions are not suitable for planting when the conifers arrive, plant them roughly in a trench in a sheltered spot, known as heeling in, until conditions improve. Do not take container grown plants out of their pots until you are ready to plant them properly.
Plant conifers in the same way as other trees and shrubs but after planting protect the plants from cold and drying winds by erecting plastic windbreak netting held up on well anchored posts as a windbreak. Once the conifer is well established this protection can be removed.
Tall trees may also need staking to prevent damage from storms. Do not feed conifers unless they are showing signs of starvation, unnatural yellowing foliage. If they are given too much food, conifers will grow more quickly, producing lush, often uncharacteristic, growth that does not look attractive and is prone to damage cause by drying and cold winds.
In a situation where two or more leaders have formed a fork in the conifer tree, leave the strongest not pruned. Cut away the other stems or stems at the point of origin. If the remaining leader is not growing strongly upright, tie a cane to the conifer's main stem. Tie the new leader to the cane to encourage vertical growth.
Conifers develop a range of habits, including upright, conical and spreading. Planted together in the garden they can make a striking group. Using a hoe to remove weeds from around young trees or shrubs is the surest way of catching them all. It is best carried out in hot weather so that any weeds hoed up die quickly.
If you would like to talk to us about the condition of your conifers - get in touch with Chelmsford Tree Surgeon today by calling 01245 527 053 or visiting our contact page and filling out a form. We work across the borough including:
tree surgeon chelmsford | tree surgeon billericay | tree surgeon ingatestone | tree surgeon maldon | tree surgeon broomfield | tree surgeon boreham
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You can buy tomatoes, peaches and pears in the produce department at your nearby market, but nothing beats the pleasure of growing your own produce at home. When you grow veggies or fruit plants, you must apply special insecticide to keep the leaves crisp, green and free of any insect bite marks.
Any amateur grower who decides to grow a fruit tree will have a new set of issues to face because of the different upkeep that's required to keep a fruit tree looking healthy and free of diseases. A person will also have to understand what times of the year to trim a tree and how to prune it to keep it healthy and growing at a set pace.
Pruning is a helpful method that will discard old shoots from the main tree's trunk and keep a structured growing outline, but pruning also helps to keep the tree from growing out of control. Growers must note the different sorts of pruning, and when to prune a tree and when not to; for example, dormant pruning helps invigorate the tree during the fall to stabilize top growth.
You must keep a set pruning cycle for a tree to make sure that its branches and fruit grow healthily and that no blockage of light to its trunk crops up during the winter and fall parts of the year. The type and age of a tree will determine the perfect time for pruning. For example, peach trees normally require late pruning because of the late blossoming of fruit. If you have an older tree, you can prune earlier in the winter and still keep the tree from getting injured, but as for younger trees, pruning later is often ideal.
Summer pruning is as vital as winter pruning, because during this time of year, the hacking off of some branches will stop the tree from growing out of control. When performing summer pruning, a grower should begin to remove the shoots as soon as the buds start to grow, and typically, cutting should be performed on the top growth of a tree to remove any unwanted shoots.
In a perfect environment, your fruit tree will mature exactly how you want it to - upright, healthy and with a strong trunk to support extra shoots. Trees usually grow wild and like to twist and turn in their own manner, making for multiple unwanted growing structures.
With the help of training wire and sticks, growers can push branches together or away from each other to fight the awkward twists seen during its early growth period. If you want to grow a set of pear trees in your backyard; you may need some training tools to ensure the branches do not hit each other and grow properly.
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Don't top your trees
The buds at the tips of shoots in trees are hormonally controlled. Those on lateral branches are controlled to grow outward, toward light (phototropic). Those on tree tops are controlled to grow upwards against gravity(geotropic).
When topping cuts are made and the geotropic buds are removed, the tree switches the hormonal signals to the buds at the tips of the upper lateral branches to start growing against gravity. Some species of trees will also trigger dormant buds that lay under the bark (epicormic) of the tree to release and grow geotropically, known as watersprouts.
Either type of newly recruited geotropic buds will grow many times faster than those of the original top, often quickly re-attaining the height of the original top. The result is a new top far larger and denser than the original. At this point, any benefit of the topping cut is undone and the original issue is more of a problem than before.... but it gets worse.
Trees are rarely able to close off wounds from topping cuts fast enough to stop decay fungi from entering the open area. As the newly recruited tops curve upward and put on rapid growth, the area around their point of attachment to the trunk becomes progressively more decayed inside, thus weakening the new tops' attachment, already weak because of the two 90-degree turns from the stem.
The obvious result of many large new tops with weak attachment points is a tree that can become very hazardous. Accordingly, many of our municipalities prohibit topping in their tree bylaws, unless it is for hazard reduction in previously topped trees.
Don't pile soil or other debris over your tree's root system
Tree roots require air to survive. On the other hand, too much air will desiccate roots and kill them. As roots grow outward, they achieve a delicate balance of air, moisture, and nutrient supply in the soil, with the fine absorbing roots usually being found in the top few inches.
When extra soil is piled over a tree's rooting area, it decreases the amount of oxygen that can get to these roots, often killing them. This also renders the lower soil environment more favourable to root decay fungi which, in serious infections, can cause the entire tree to fall over. Adding as little as two inches of soil to the rooting area can be enough to kill a mature tree.
Don't over prune your trees
While some orchardists rely on heavy pruning to maintain a heavy fruit yield, this is not a suitable practice for most homeowners. Orchard trees are grown specifically for fruit production and not for aesthetic value. Such pruning practices severely reduce a tree's life expectancy, compromise structural form, and come at heavy maintenance cost due to excessive sprouting. Heavy fruit crops are a symptom of stress, and such trees are pruned so as to stress them.
Trees grown for ornamental value, as is the case in most yards should normally not have more than 25% of the leafy area removed in a year. Keeping within such limits, while making proper cuts, can keep a tree healthy and maintain an attractive form. This can be done while, at the same time, maintaining a decent yield of fruit, if so desired. Pruning is all about balance.
Don't fertilize unless you know your tree needs it
Any nutrient becomes toxic when there is too much of it in the soil. Because trees are much longer-lived than most other garden plants, they keep a delicate equilibrium between growth rates and other physiological functions and moisture and nutrient levels in their environment.
Upsetting this balance by adding concentrated nutrients can have unintended and unwanted growth reactions in trees. If a tree shows symptoms of nutrient deficiency, it is best to have the soil tested before trying to amend the soil.
If fertilizer is required, it is best to use an organic form, in which nutrients are released at a slower rate and are therefore less likely to cause fertilizer burn than a synthetic variety. The easiest way to gently amend your soil, is to allow a tree to take back its own nutrients, by allowing leaves to compost themselves on-site.
Don't over water your trees
While trees do need water to survive, too much water can kill them. Roots need access to air through soil pores, which can be cut off by oversaturated soil. Roots in oversaturated soil will eventually die. Wet conditions are also very favourable to many of the fungi responsible for tree decay, especially for root rot fungi, which can result in the entire tree falling over.
Don't get in over your head
If you are considering working on your trees and something seems unsafe, it probably is. There is a lot of weight involved and a lot of forces at play even in fairly small trees, and many homeowners are seriously injured or worse yearly when trying to do work they are improperly equipped for. If unsure, call an expert.
If you are considering working on your trees and aren't familiar with proper pruning techniques, trees' growth responses to pruning or damage, or the needs and limitations of the particular species of tree in question, it is wise to call an expert.
Short-term savings on doing work one's self are often dwarfed by the long-tem cost of attempting to repair a tree from improper pruning.
Do know the species of your trees, and the personalities of those species
Each species of tree has its own specific needs and habits. Knowing these ahead of time can help you avoid actions that will harm your tree, or prevent you from planting the right tree in the wrong spot in the first place. Western redcedar (Thuja plicata) has a shallow, spreading root system that allows its roots to survive the wet environments it grows in naturally.
This species would be inappropriate for a fast-draining hilltop, or a site where heavy traffic is expected over the rooting area. Most birches (Betula spp.) are likewise adapted to wetter growing sites, often naturally growing along creeks or in gullies.
This is one reason we see a lot of otherwise beautiful birch trees in Vancouver planted in fast-draining lawns with dead tops. Pacific dogwood (Cornus nuttallii), the bearer of our provincial flower, is very sensitive to damp conditions and stagnant airflow, and will often quickly die in such conditions from dogwood anthracnose.
Knowing the average mature size and spread of a tree is of utmost importance in choosing its planting location. Every year, we are called to remove otherwise beautiful, healthy trees, that have been planted in the wrong spot and are damaging buildings.
Do plant trees in appropriate spots
This goes along with knowing your species... We are surrounded by temperate rainforest full of beautiful trees. Where there is room for them to grow, large native species such as Douglas-fir, western redcedar, western hemlock, grand fir, and bigleaf maple can be marvellous assets to a yard. The same goes with stately exotic trees such as black walnut, beech, or elm. However, property owners frequently don't take mature form into consideration when planting seedlings, or allowing naturally seeded trees to grow in place.
A bit of planning while a tree is small can reduce the need for expensive removals down the road, along with the loss of an otherwise beautiful tree. Trees that grow large also tend to grow surprisingly rapidly.
Do water your trees if they need it
Trees growing in our region have acclimatized to our rainy environment. Established trees should have no problem dealing with a week or two of drought when we do get dry breaks. However, prolonged droughts can unnecessarily stress your trees, reducing their vigour and thereby reducing their resistance to pathogens.
Trees benefit most from infrequent (no more than twice a week) deep watering than from regular short bursts with a sprinkler. They do not like their trunks being sprayed directly by a sprinkler, rather a gentle soaking of the soil around the root area, ideally with a soaker hose. Watering is most effective in the evenings, as during the day much of the water is effectively lost to evaporation before roots can absorb it.
Do have limbs pruned back from your house
It is beneficial to prune tree limbs growing towards walls and roofs early on to establish a form that will require little maintenance in the future, and provide adequate clearance from buildings. Branches coming within 3 ft. of roofs or eves invite squirrels and rats onto rooftops, where they can gain access inside through roof vents, often nesting in attic space. This is a common problem in the Greater Vancouver area.
Dense branches over roofs and walls also limit airflow and promote a moist environment for moss and lichen to grow. Judicious pruning can promote increased airflow to keep walls and roofs clean, while maintaining the healthy form of trees.