Whittier Fertilizer Blog

How to Assess the Health of Your Tree

It can take years or even decades for trees to reach maturity, so as a homeowner, investing some time and energy into the health of your trees simply makes sense. After all, replacing a tree that’s been lost due to disease or pest damage is both expensive and difficult to do.

How Trees Grow

One of the reasons why trees are able to grow to dizzying heights and remain vibrant for many generations is the fact that trees grow in layers, and each of these unique layers plays a specific role in the health of the tree.

The outermost two layers of a tree are known as the bark, which serves as a ‘skin’ for the tree. The outer bark is tough and firm; it works to shield the tree from pests and extreme temperatures. Much like human skin, when the outer layer of bark is damaged, the cells surrounding the damaged area undergo physical changes, and over time, a type of callus forms to seal off the affected area.

By contrast, the inner bark is soft and pliable; it works to deliver water and nutrients from the trunk and branches throughout the tree. Beyond this layer is the cambium, which is the layer of the tree where most of the new growth occurs. These layers are what causes the appearance of distinctive ‘growth rings’ that are visible when a tree is cut down.

How Disease and Insects Impact Tree Health

Here in California, there are a number of threats to the ongoing health of our trees, including fungal diseases that are linked to fluctuations in temperatures as well as both drought and excessive watering.

A common disease is known as cankers; this is when the fungus enters the fragile inner layers of a tree through the bark, leading to a chemical imbalance which can cause the tree to become disfigured, shed large portions of bark, and eventually die. Fungal diseases are common in willows, beach, maple, and birch trees.

Another common threat to tree health is the Western pine beetle, which attacks previously compromised Coulter and Ponderosa pines. The beetles burrow deep into the tree, causing the bark to fall off and eventually starving the tree of the nutrients it needs to remain vibrant.

Signs Your Tree Is Sick

While many property owners believe there is something wrong at the first sign of shedding bark, many varieties of trees regularly shed off large pieces of bark as new, healthy layers develop beneath.

What is important to watch for is unusual bark shedding, such as bark falling off following a sudden temperature shift; extended drought; or when there are other signs that the tree isn’t healthy like dead leaves, cracked branches, or the development of cankers.

Protecting Your Tree With Mulch

There are some simple steps you can take to both keep your healthy trees in good condition and help revive trees that have suffered from weather stress. Stressed trees respond well when organic mulch is applied in the spring and fall to the soil at the base of the tree.

A high-quality mulch will provide your tree with much-needed nutrients while helping to protect against both overwatering and drought – two of the most common threats to tree health here in California.

To find the ideal mulch for your specific application, contact our tree health experts here at Whittier Fertilizer.

Posted in: Gardening, Landscaping

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