Summer tree care in the Piedmont Triad area isn’t complicated, but it’s extremely important to keep up with it for the health of your trees.
Average summer temperatures in the Winston-Salem area hover in the upper 80’s, although highs can reach 100F! Combined with oppressive humidity, it’s not always a comfortable time of year. That makes the cool green shade under trees one of the most appealing summer-time benefits of healthy trees (did you know that trees actually cool the air around them?).
To keep your trees flourishing through the summer heat (and to help keep you cool), there are a few summer tree care tasks we recommend doing between June and September.
Watch For Signs of Heat Stress
While summer is the season when trees stretch their branches to the sky and push out green leaves, it’s also when those same hard-working trees can easily become stressed.
Summer heat stress is common, so check your trees for these symptoms:
- Wilted, yellow leaves
- Brown or scorched-looking leaf tips or margins
- Fruit and flower drop, and less fruit development
- Leaf, twig, and branch drop, or stress-induced summer dormancy
Prevent Water Stress
Heat stress may be accompanied by water stress, as hot weather forces trees to take up and transpire more water from their leaves. You can help prevent heat stress in your trees by following these best practices:
- Provide ample and consistent irrigation, especially before a heatwave hits
- Add mulch around a tree’s trunk and drip line to keep the soil temperature even. As an added benefit, a good layer of mulch also suppresses weeds and helps retain moisture in the soil, reducing the amount of irrigation needed.
- Choose tree species to plant on your property that are suited to our region (for example, these are the trees we recommend for the greater Winston-Salem area).
- Avoid applying high-nitrogen synthetic fertilizer. High levels of nitrogen fertilizer stimulate excessive leaf growth. When a tree is already stressed by summer heat and lack of moisture, this can quickly exhaust your trees’ energy reserves their roots try to take up more water to support the leaf growth.
Give Newly-Planted Trees Some TLC
If you’ve planted new trees recently, be sure to give them the extra TLC they’ll need throughout the summer. Young trees have small root systems that can’t reach far into the soil to find water and their crown of leaves is working hard to meet the tree’s energy needs. A tree planted last fall will be facing its first hot summer and spring-planted trees are brand new to the environment on your property. Start them off right with:
- careful and consistent watering (without drowning them)
- a close eye on signs of wilting, yellowing, browning leaves, or other symptoms of stress
- all of the summer tree care tasks below
Maintain Soil Health For Healthier Trees
Preparing for summer also means making sure your soil has the optimal levels of mineral nutrients and organic matter, as your trees need these resources for their long summer growing season.
Soil that’s been amended with compost retains water, encourages root growth, and naturally sequesters carbon. Synthetic fertilizer has none of these benefits.
Before the weather gets too hot and muggy, it’s a good idea to do the following:
- Amend your soil with compost by working it into the top few inches of soil in flower and vegetable beds
- Spread a thin layer over the grass to top-dress your lawn
- Side-dress shrubs and trees by putting down a layer of compost next to them (just keep it away from stems and trunks)
Replenish Mulch Around Trees
Mulching around the dripline of your trees helps to keep moisture in the soil and makes a natural barrier to keep mowers and string trimmers from damaging tree trunks. Since mulch also suppresses weed growth, those mowers and string trimmers won’t have much work to do around your trees anyway.
Even if you tucked your trees in for their winter slumber with a nice layer of organic mulch, or topped it up in spring, check if you need to replenish it (spring rains may have washed some away).
- Add 2 to 4 inches of organic mulch (such as shredded bark, wood chips, pine straw, or compost) around your trees
- Keep it well away from the trunk to avoid rot and fungal diseases
Keep Watering Deeply All Summer
Summers in NC are hot, so you’ll want to make sure your trees are getting all the water they need. Usually, this means providing them with extra irrigation. Summer rainstorms provide some water (we average about 4 to 5 inches per month over the summer) but you can’t always rely on rain for your trees’ needs.
- Trees and lawns don’t mix, especially when it comes to irrigation. Don’t rely on your lawn sprinklers to get enough water to your trees, as your lawn has different requirements than your trees do.
- Low and slow irrigation on a separate irrigation valve from your lawn gives trees the kind of deep watering they need.
- Check that your lawn sprinklers aren’t reaching your trees, since too much water spraying a tree’s trunk and branches during hot weather can encourage fungal growth.
Prune Trees Lightly When Needed
Light summer pruning can be safely done on many trees and works by:
- Reducing excessive or hazardous summer branch growth
- Refining the shape of a tree’s canopy
- Removing diseased twigs and branches
- Allowing sunlight and air to move through a tree’s crown
- Keeping semi-dwarf fruiting trees at a small scale and increasing their fruiting
NOTE: Unlike winter pruning, in summer insect pests and diseases are active, so any summer pruning should be done carefully and sparingly. While a tree will quickly respond to a pruning cut during its growing season, active pests and pathogens will also take advantage of an “open door” into your trees.
Keep Watch For Summer Tree Safety Risks
Violent summer thunderstorms can cause extensive damage to trees, especially those that haven’t been properly pruned or recently inspected. And, of course, a lightning strike can result in serious injury to your trees (although it’s not always obvious that a tree has been struck by lightning – until it breaks apart or dies).
To prevent damage to nearby structures or harm to people, look for any of the following (especially after a summer storm):
- broken and/or hanging branches,
- cracks in the trunk or at branch crotches (where the branch attaches to the tree trunk)
- holes or rotted areas in the tree trunk or around its base
- roots lifting out of the ground or the tree beginning to lean (this is often a problem when the soil is supersaturated from rain or flooding)
If you notice anything of concern, or if you’re not sure whether to be worried about what you see, please give us a call ASAP at 336-347-1944. Our Certified Arborists can examine your trees to see if they pose a safety hazard and can recommend the best way to mitigate safety risks.
Check For Insects & Diseases
Summer is a good time to check for any signs of insect infestations or disease. With many pests and pathogens highly active during these warmer months, there’s a good chance that your trees (or other plants) will fall prey to one or more of them.
It’s almost always easier and usually more successful to treat any pests or diseases if you catch them early. Or, better yet, to prevent them from attacking altogether.
If you want to maximize the beautiful summer display your garden offers, one simple step is to reduce or remove anything that can host pests or fungal growth.
Clean Up Regularly
It’s a good idea to keep up with garden tasks during summer, which can include pruning and trimming shrubs and perennials, as well as trees.
- Rake up any debris from pruning or deadheading
- Remove any fallen fruit that could rot and harbor pests (or, better yet, harvest them before they fall!)
- Make sure there’s space for air to move around and through your plants (thin them as necessary)
- Deadhead flowering plants regularly to increase their blooming time and provide more flowers for beneficial pollinating and nectar-sipping insects. Creating a habitat island in your garden helps all songbirds and beneficial insect populations, but especially your local ones.
- And if you need a reason to remove weeds before they set their seed heads, remember that those seeds can wait out the seasons and germinate next spring. So any weed you remove now can save you removing it next spring. Weeding feels like an endless task, but it does make a difference!
Summer Tree Care Means Healthier Trees All Year
Like us, trees need care and attention, as well as preventive care, to help them breeze through the hot, humid summers in North Carolina. And when you think of all the benefits that trees provide (things like fruits, nuts, flowers, shade, clean air, summer cooling, fall color, soil stabilization, wildlife habitat, and nice views, to name a few!) it’s not much to ask that, after we’ve brought trees from their natural habitat into ours, we take care of them like the welcome guests they are.
We love trees and are here to help you love them too. Whether you need to say goodbye to an old, dying tree or find the right new one, we can help you with our tree removal, stump grinding, and pruning services.
If you have questions about your trees, would like a tree inspection, or need professional, experienced tree care for your Piedmont Triad area property, call Beaver Tree Service today!
Check out our other seasonal tree care checklists –