Common Tree Care, Planting mistakes

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Do not use a weed wacker as the above person is doing to control vegetation around the trees. The thin bark at the base of the trees will be damaged and removed and the tree will die as shown on the right. We recommend using herbicides such as Glyphosate, Pendulum, and Princep to control unwanted vegetation around your trees.

Mulberry tree growing next to Norway Spruce. Need removal.

Mulberry tree growing next to Norway Spruce. Need removal.

Mulberry trees growing in Red Cedar Windbreak. Need removal.

Mulberry trees growing in Red Cedar Windbreak. Need removal.

Farmer cut out the mulberry trees in his windbreak, and the local Coop said to put  Tordon  on the stumps. Result as you can see was the destruction of the windbreak. Use only Roundup on stumps in the fall.

Farmer cut out the mulberry trees in his windbreak, and the local Coop said to put Tordon on the stumps. Result as you can see was the destruction of the windbreak. Use only Roundup on stumps in the fall.

Norway Spruce killed by Tordon  being put on mulberry stump cut off next to tree. Use only Roundup on the stumps in the fall.

Norway Spruce killed by Tordon being put on mulberry stump cut off next to tree. Use only Roundup on the stumps in the fall.

At the top two pictures are windbreak trees that have a mulberry trees growing up the middle of the tree. This is a very common occurrence in windbreaks as birds bring in seeds and they start growing. If not removed, mulberry or other trees/vines will eventually kill your windbreak trees. Cut the mulberries/other volunteer trees/shrubs or vines off level 4 inches above ground, and apply a safe herbicide (Glyphosate) that can be used to kill the undesirable plants growing in your windbreak, and not hurt your evergreens, do this in the fall (Oct.-Dec.) of the year.

DO NOT use any herbicides such as Tordon, Milestone, Forefront, Grazon, Grazonnext, 2-4D or other similar herbicide on, around or within 100 ft of your windbreak or any trees at any time, as it can and will kill them. Never use tree spikes fertilizer on any tree less than 20 ft tall, as is too much nitrogen and will kill smaller trees, very few trees in the midwest ever need any fertilizer, only weed and grass control.

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Left above, is a Norway Spruce with grass/weeds growing around the base of the tree and right a Norway Spruce that has proper weed control. Do not let any vegetation grow within 2-3 ft of your trees the first 5 years. Grass/weeds takes all moisture and nutrients from the tree and growth rates are reduced significantly up to 75%. We advise using herbicides such as Glyphosate, Pendulum, and Princep, and not mulch in most cases to control vegetation and can advise you on the proper and safe ones to use. You do not need a special license to buy or use these products in most states, can buy at:

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Here is damage done from a buck deer rubbing his antlers, to avoid damage from rubbing and eating of your trees, reduce or remove the numbers of destructive animals (rabbits, deer, pocket gofers) and take action to prevent damage in the future. For best results we like and use:

Above is a row of shrubs that were planted 10 ft from a row of Norway spruce. They were the old fashioned lilac and they quickly spread by suckers in the Norway spruce area. The Norway spruce responded by losing there bottom branches, and now the wind is beginning to blow right threw the bottom of the windbreak. This is one reason I am not a big fan of planting deciduous shrubs in a windbreak as this can happen if planted closer than 22 ft from the trees. Deciduous shrubs in the winter without their leaves provides only a 30% reduction in wind velocity, where any evergreen provide over a 70% reduction in winds.

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Above are two pictures of 32 year old Norway Spruce, they were both 18" tall and planted on the same day as I planted them myself.  This is to show what happens when you plant trees/shrubs too close together. These trees are about 140 ft apart and soil conditions are the same. 

The one on the left is surrounded with other trees and shrubs 6 to 10 ft from the tree.  The tree is bare of branches up 14ft to about 6 ft from the top of the 20 ft tree.  It is just barely surviving and is very susceptible to snapping off in a 40 MPH wind, due to the small trunk and all foliage being at the top, making it top heavy. 

The one on the right is about 45 ft tall and the branches extend all the way to the ground and extend out 32ft.  There is no other trees within 27 ft of this tree, and with its massive trunk is very strong and will not blow over or snap off unless the wind is over 120MPH. 

This is one of our biggest problems with long term windbreaks.  Too many people and other nurseries plant trees/shrubs too close together thinking they are going to get a windbreak faster, not true, it is actually going to decrease the growth rate, long term survival, and effectiveness as the bottom branches die out letting the wind blow threw, and weaken the whole tree.  We care about the long term growth and survival of your windbreak, few other nurseries know windbreaks or care about them and look to only sell you as many trees/shrubs as possible to make the most amount of money for them.

Above is a picture of a windbreak with the two smaller trees in the middle. The one on the left is 6 ft tall and the one on the right is 8ft tall, these trees are 28 years old, as I planted them myself. These are Douglas Fir planted in a heavy clay soil that was along a gravel road and the soil PH in this area is over 8.5, not good for fir trees. I wanted to show this picture to show what happens when the wrong trees is planted in the wrong site. Many kinds of trees will grow in this area and do well, so plan carefully when selecting your trees for a certain area, especially along gravel roads.


Above is a windbreak in which the person thought they could get ahead on their windbreak by planting a row of larger trees that died shortly after planting. They may have paid a lot of money for the trees and to have them tree spaded in, unfortunately many times the tree planter gives a "reduced rate" with no warrantee. The row next to them are smaller potted Arborvitae and the whole row is green and doing fine. When planting a windbreak, our potted trees are the best way to get the windbreak you want, in the shortest possible time with the fewest losses, work and cost. The Austrees in the background are looking very well.

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Above is a windbreak in which the homeowner has cut off all the lower branches so they could "mow" under the trees. Bad idea, as they destroyed their windbreak. You can see what happens, the wind and snow hits the windbreak and the wind picks up speed (called jetting) as it goes under the trees, removed all the snow, and sent all the wind and snow over to the house. To fix this problem plant a new row of trees on the outside of the windbreak. Do not remove the lower branches on your windbreak trees and there is no need to mow in this area under the larger trees as the lower branches on evergreens will usually shade out the grass.

Above is an example of what happens when a tree is planted too deep. The customer planted the trees themselves and the top arrow is where we found the soil line on the trees. They had notified us and said all there trees were dying. It only took a few seconds to find the problem, the stem above the root system cannot be in contact with the soil as it rots and kills the plant. They used an auger to dig the holes so this is a common problem using an auger, and the person doing the planting did not know about planting dept. The soil line on all trees potted or bare root should be about one inch above the top lateral root, or approximately at the bottom arrow shown on the picture.


Above is a person who lives up a long lane planted some Spruce 10 ft to the west side of their driveway. As they get bigger they will drift the lane shut as the snow will drop right behind it on the lane. Keep any rows of trees at least 40 ft away on the west side of a drive way


In most cases we do not advise staking trees, and if you do, only for a short period of time in the summer. What happened here is an ice or wind storm can put a lot of extra stress on the tree and it bent to the area where it was held by the stakes, causing it to snap off above the strap where the pressure was the greatest. It is better for the tree to just bend with the ice, snow and wind.

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Ice and heavy snow will many time get over your trees and pull them down, this applies to all trees. These are white pine on left and they are more likely to do this than the Spruce varieties. Austree willow is on the right. We know this looks bad and you want to help, but do not do anything as long as the temperature is below about 36'F. These plant are under a lot of tension and they rarely break after the storm is over.

Once it is above freezing the snow/ice should start to melt off and you can "gently" help to remove some of the snow that is on the very top. Most of the time we recommend to do nothing and let warm weather work. If it is below freezing and you try to bend these stems, you will either break them or crack the outside layer of bark causing much more damage. After the snow and ice is all melted off and the winter is over we sometimes take the crooked stem and gently work it in a circle to "stretch" the wood fibers helping it to straighten up. But again if you do nothing usually they will be fine and recover in a year or two and the crook will be gone.

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Above is several dead pyramidal arborvitae in a row that the others were doing fine. With just a glance we wondered what happened and quickly found out. 2012 was a bad drought/hot year here in the midwest. If you look above the dead trees you will see a Hackberry tree sticking above. What happened is the hackberry has very adventurous roots and was close enough to the Arborvitae that the hackberry roots were over and got under the Arborvitae taking too much moisture from them causing them to die. This is why I advise, if you have arborvitae and you have a drought/heat with no rain for over 30 days or other trees growing close to them, try to water them in some way. If these trees had been watered just once during the drought they could have all been saved.