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Tree Talk - Metropolitan Forestry Services

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April 11, 2022

A Low-Sweat Guide to Low-Maintenance Trees

There is no such thing as a no-maintenance plant. But if you are investing in a tree or shrub that will provide so many benefits for you and your home, giving it the attention it needs from the get-go will make it more resilient and sturdy, save you time and money, and mitigate future hazards. Since most of the work is spread out in little bits throughout the year, it becomes quite manageable to achieve a low maintenance landscape. Here is a breakdown of the REAL TIME it takes you to do the tasks.

Choose a location that fits your tree’s needs

Finding a good location is inseparable from choosing a plant – the conditions of the site need to cater to the tree’s water, soil, and light preferences. A plant that only “tolerates” a condition will need a lot more attention to do well. Try to choose native and look for disease and pest resistant plants.

  • What to do: Glance at the desired spots in your landscape throughout a month’s time to verify sun and weather exposure, neighboring plants, and soil moisture; you might be familiar with these factors, but intentional focus will help you gather more accurate information. Read about planting locations on the Missouri Extension office and check out your prospective tree’s needs on the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Plant Finder.
  • Time spent:  1-2 cumulative hours, whenever you can fit in 5-10 minutes at a time.

Pick a fairly well-behaved tree

Minimal mess, sturdy structure, and well-adapted natives are a homeowner’s best bud.

  • What to do: Look up your choices on the MoBot Plant Finder. Talk to your garden center for suggestions to match your landscape. Check out which trees to avoid planting in our area.
  • Time spent: 1-2 hours to research.

Make sure it’s planted correctly

  • What to do: check out this guide to planting trees by the Arbor Day Foundation. Planting shouldn’t take more than a couple hours on one day, or mere minutes of your time if an arborist does it for you.
  • Time spent: 20 minutes – 4 hours.

Water New Additions to Your Landscape

I cannot stress this enough. It’s happened so many times – we plant trees, then we get a call soon after saying it’s dead. What happened? Someone hardly, if ever, watered the plant.

  • What to do: Here’s a guide to watering new trees.
  • Time spent: 10-30 minutes once-twice week.

Mulch, Mulch, Mulch

This keeps the moisture more consistent, the soil temperature lower, and provides nutrients and organic material as it breaks down. There are a bunch of other benefits!

  • What to do: spread once in the spring and once in the fall.
  • Time spent: 30 minutes each time. 1 total hour a year.

Care beyond the first few years

Landscape Look-Out

Hopefully the plant is in a location you see at least once a week (if for nothing else so you can enjoy its awesomeness).

  • What to do: Go up to it. Touch it. Look for insects, weird leaf spots, bark damage, or deadwood. Look for pruning needs: are there any roots wrapping around the base? Do the limbs look like they’re crossing over one another, crowding each other, or splitting off into multiple trunk leaders at the top?
  • Time spent: observing for 5 minutes once a week.

Address any issues above

  • What to do: Contact an arborist for a consultation to help diagnose and recommend actions (especially in the case of pest and disease issues) and if needed they can perform appropriate treatments. Also, 2-5 years after planting is a crucial timeframe to prune for structural integrity. Here’s a guide to pruning basics. If you feel confident, go ahead and do basic pruning. For assistance, an arborist will exact structural pruning according to the highest arboricultural standards.
  • Time spent: 20 minutes to 2 hours.

Fertilizing is a Landscape Must

Give it a bump of nutrients to keep it vigorous and fortified. Also, consider occasionally applying landscape safe horticultural oil. This is an organic spray that kills off mites, scale, and aphids on contact as well as control some fungal diseases. Here’s the lowdown on horticultural oils. These are preventative measures included in a wholistic plant health care strategy. Prevention is always better than remediation.

  • What to do: Consider if it’s something your plant could use at the current time – observe, research, and reach out to someone knowledgeable.
  • Time spent: 20 minutes of your time to call an arborist (recommended for the most accurate and efficient results; we also have the gear to handle the job).

In summary, the majority of landscape maintenance is required during the first few years after planting when the plant isn’t fully established and is vulnerable to pests. Out of the 8,760 hours in a year, you will spend no more than 25 hours in the year of planting the tree. After that, you will spend no more that 15 hours per year.  This will set the tree up for success so it will reward you for decades to come. So get some gloves, set aside some time on your calendar, and imagine the fruits of your minimal labor.

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Our goal is to provide you with the best possible service. If you are not satisfied with any treatment or completed job, we will resolve the situation to your satisfaction. We want to do our utmost to ensure your trees and shrubs are always 'green and growing'.