Homeowner’s Guide to Proper Tree Maintenance in Denver, CO

Are you ready to take your landscaping to the next level? We’ve put together a guide for proper tree maintenance in Denver, Colorado, through fertilizing, trimming, and assessing for removal. With these tree maintenance tips, you can watch your trees transform from lackluster into vibrant and lush greenery by the time spring arrives next.

Tree Fertilizing

Denver is a semi-desert climate, which means your trees are starving for nutrients. Think about how much more water your body needs living in Denver compared to living at lower altitude or sea level. The higher altitude demands a higher moisture level for all living things, including humans and trees. As the summer months warm up, your trees and shrubs need added nutrition when the rains dissipate before the fall arrives.

Subsequently, that’s where tree fertilization is key to your trees’ long-term health.  Your trees will be more susceptible to disease and insect infestations, as well as potential breakage, and stunted growth without tree fertilization. 

This reminds us of the saying from the old Fram oil filter commercial: “You can pay me now, or you can pay me later.” 

The same is true with trees in Denver! Do you want to pay several hundred dollars for a new tree every five to seven years, or would you rather pay for tree fertilization now at a fraction of the cost?

Nutrients Your Trees Need for Proper Tree Maintenance 

At any rate, if you’re a weekend warrior who likes to spend time in your garden, you may know nitrogen, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and sulfur are key nutrients for healthy plants. However, this is only one part of the tree nutrient puzzle. These nutrients are known as macronutrients. They are called macronutrients because healthy trees require them in large quantities. 

However, there are several micronutrients that also play a big role in boosting a tree’s immunity. Micronutrients earn their name because trees generally require them in much smaller quantities compared to macronutrients.

Zinc, iron, and boron are a few of the key micronutrients that help keep your trees in fighting shape to combat pests and diseases. To perform the best tree maintenance, finding a fertilizer with these ingredients is important because they will go a long way toward boosting immunity.

Natural compost can also be a great way to deliver valuable micronutrients. Food scraps and garden clippings contain large amounts of the proper micronutrients. Concurrently, they also make an extremely effective and budget-friendly compost.

How to Determine If Your Tree Needs Fertilization

Trees derive all of their nutrition through water, sun, or the soil. As you probably know and love, Denver has more than 300 days of abundant sunshine every year. Nevertheless, Denver trees are lacking water and soil nutrients.

Much of our native soil is heavy with clay, which makes root penetration and water absorption beneath the surface a challenge for trees. This elevated (pun intended) amount of clay in our soil makes even planting trees difficult, let alone root growth for maturing trees. That’s where we focus on the term tilth, which describes the conditioning of the soil.

  • Slow growth: If your tree is not growing at the expected rate of growth, there’s a good chance the soil quality is stunting its progress. Adding tree fertilizer is a great way to keep your tree growing at a healthy rate.
  • Discolored leaves: Premature dieback, out-of-season leaf discoloration, or canopy loss could be a sign of infestation or disease, but there’s a good chance it may be your tree isn’t getting a healthy diet of vitamins from the sun, soil, or water.
  • New plant or recent transplant: As a rule of thumb, all new trees and recently transplanted trees are low on nutrients. It’s similar to your kids needing their vitamins as they grow to stay healthy and strong. Let’s give the same TLC to your young growing trees.
  • Smaller leaves and shoots: Smaller leaves or stunted shoots are often a sign of nutrient deficiency for trees. If your tree didn’t quite produce the volume and size of leaves as it did last year, it may need a tree fertilizer injected to ‘pump up’ the production.

The arborists at Fielding Tree Care use fertilizer to help break up the heavy clay that prevents roots and root tips from growing steadily through the soil. The better the roots grow, the better the canopy grows!

The Benefits of Fertilizing

  • Prevent Disease: When you take vitamins, your body can better defend itself from viruses and bacteria. You are less likely to catch a cold or stomach bug. Fertilized trees have the same strength. They can fight off tree diseases like cytospora canker, bacterial wetwood, marssonina blight, and powdery mildew that are prevalent in the Denver area. Trees that are injured, stressed, or lacking nutrients become weak and susceptible to disease.
  • Mitigate Pests: Trees that are strong and growing vigorously are also less susceptible to attack by insects. The emerald ash borer (EAB), IPS beetle, ash/lilac borer, and Japanese beetle are just a few of the pest’s plaguing trees in Denver. Fertilizer can improve your tree’s resistance to infestation.
  • Stimulate Growth: The right fertilizer will give your tree a boost in needed nutrients. This can result in stimulating mild-rapid growth. If you desire a fuller canopy or greener lush leaves, fertilizer will help you reach your goals.

Tree Trimming

Trimming trees is a vital component of tree maintenance and many people have different approaches. Some relish the opportunity to fire up the chainsaw and go at it full-speed ahead, hacking the tree down to a nub. Others gingerly remove branches piece by piece in a fashion so delicate that you can’t tell they even did anything. Lastly, when it comes to the best time of the year to prune, everyone has their “expert” opinion.

We are here to help set the record straight and cover the best methods for trimming your trees. This includes when it’s the best time of year to perform tree manicuring or pruning.

Why Pruning Your Trees Is Important

Properly trimming trees can provide an array of benefits for both trees and humans. It can lead to less obstructions for pedestrians and vehicles, a better view, and a safer environment. Proper trimming produces sturdier branches, reducing the likelihood of a branch breaking and falling, which could lead to injury or property damage. Well-executed tree maintenance also makes trees healthier.
This reduces the likelihood the tree will die early and need to be removed.

The Best Time to Trim Your Trees

For most plants, winter is the best time of the year to prune. It is best to prune when the plant is dormant and before new growth begins. Winter pruning primes the plant for growth in the spring. 

Pruning gives a few other advantages. Thinning out the canopy of a tree allows more sunlight and air to reach the remaining leaves. This will give the tree’s remaining branches the best opportunity to thrive. However, no matter the time of year, you want to remove dead stems or branches when you see them.

How to Prune For Proper Tree Maintenance

Pruning is always a case of having the right technique and tools. Many of us can be tempted to fire up the chainsaw and begin sawing off branches with a wide-eyed grin. This is not the best way to do it. You really want to be deliberate about the branches you remove. 

Ideally, pruning calls for expert decisions by an arborist who makes pruning cuts on a tree to reallocate it’s vigor to the healthiest portions of the tree. That said, homeowners that take the time to learn correct pruning techniques are going to have much more success with their trees, so our arborists put together this DIY Tree Trimming Guide. 

Here are some highlights from the tree trimming guide:

For most cases, power tools are overkill. Handheld tools are more than up to the challenge, so long as the blades are kept sharp. When it comes time to prune, you want to look for dead, diseased, or precariously positioned branches. Pruning diseased branches at the first opportunity can prevent the disease from spreading to the rest of the tree. 

If encouraging the tree to branch out is your goal, use heading cuts. Heading cuts are cuts that are made straight across so all the branches become the same length. If you want the canopy to become more open and let more sunlight through, use thinning cuts. Thinning cuts are made when branches are deliberately removed to allow more room for growth of existing branches.

Removing Large Tree Branches

Sometimes trimming your trees leads you to removing some rather large branches. There is a technique you should follow as opposed to just lopping off the branch and shouting “Timber!” Of course, you want to make sure you are in a safe place where the branch can fall without causing a problem.

Your first cut should be made on the underside of the branch about 12 to 18 inches from the tree trunk. This first cut is called a “drop cut” by arborists and is made just outside the “branch bark collar.” It’s on the underside of the branch and should go about a third of the way through the branch. Cutting on the underside first helps to minimize the bark tearing when the branch is removed.

The second cut should be made from the top several inches outside of the cut from the underside of the tree. This cut should go all the way through removing the tree branch. The third and final cut should be made close to the point where the branch connects to the trunk. However, the cut should not be made completely flush with the tree trunk. Here is a simple, pictorial guide on how to remove larger branches from a tree.

Spoting, Assessing, and Removing Wind Damaged Trees

The winds have been howling in Colorado recently. Strong seasonal storms can cause a variety of wind damage, even unseen damage to trees. Here’s a quick guide to identifying, assessing, and removing wind damaged branches and trees.

Step 1 – Assess All Wind Damaged Trees

Take a walk through your yard and look for fallen branches and debris. Check for broken branches that may still be hanging in the tree. If you suspect wind has compromised a tree’s trunk, do not attempt to remove it yourself! Whole trees can weigh up to several thousand pounds and carry significant safety risks if they topple without proper supervision. Call Fielding Tree Care to inspect potentially totaled trees.

Step 2 – Create a Trimming Plan to Remove Wind Damaged Branches

Decide which branches need to be removed, where the cuts will need to be made, and what materials will be required to remove the branches. This may be anything from a simple pair of loppers to a large-capacity crane. Hint – call your favorite Denver arborist (Spoiler alert: that’s us!) and we’ll do a FREE damage assessment and estimate for you.

Step 3 – Call Fielding Tree Care to Remove Wind Damaged Trees

If you need to remove damaged branches, cut the branches at the lateral branch, bud, or main stem. Do NOT cut in the middle of a branch. This will ensure optimum tree health in the future for the branch. For complete tree removal, always call Fielding Tree Care to do the job safely and professionally.

Tree Removal in Denver

Whether you’re planning to involve a professional or remove it yourself, you’ve probably got some essential questions about what you need to know before you begin and how to get the job done, such as:

  • How do I know if my tree needs to be removed?
  • Can my dying or diseased tree be saved?
  • What happens if I don’t cut down my tree?
  • What do I need to know before I begin?
  • Can I remove the tree myself?

Does Your Tree Need to be Removed?

There are a variety of reasons why your tree might need to come down. Particularly, trees can be dead or dying due to poor watering, disease, and pests. They can also have root systems that are interfering with the foundation of your house or even your water supply.

If your tree might be dead or dying, it’s important that you identify the problem as soon as possible. You might be able to save the tree. In some cases though, you’ll want to remove the tree before it becomes a hazard.

Signs that your tree might be dead or dying:

  • Lack of growth – If your tree isn’t growing leaves when it should, then that could be a sign that it’s dead or dying. In some cases, trees might grow leaves on some branches but not others. The empty branches are dead, and the tree could be conserving its resources and making itself smaller due to a lack of nourishment.
  • Deadwood – This is literally what it sounds like. Deadwood refers to dead branches that fall from the tree and litter your yard – another sign that the tree is conserving resources.  
  • Leaning – Dead or dying trees may be more susceptible to strong winds or root damage, both of which can cause trees to lean.
  • Cracks or splits – Splits in the tree trunk signify that a tree may be about to fall.

Signs That Your Tree May Be Diseased:

  • Fungi – Are mushrooms sprouting up overnight at the base of your tree? The sudden appearance of mushrooms and other fungi could indicate decay caused by disease, especially if they keep coming back with a vengeance.
  • Cavities – Another sign of decay are deep cavities in the tree trunk that can occur when wood has rotted away.
  • Cankers – These clumps or patches of dead bark indicate bacterial or fungal infection.

Even if your tree is otherwise healthy, it could be causing problems for your home. Tree roots can be aggressive and are far more widespread than you might realize. In fact, a tree’s roots could grow outward up to three times the width of the tree’s foliage – give or take. These roots can damage water pipes, especially older ones, by penetrating them. When this happens, the affected home could have serious plumbing issues.

Aggressive tree roots are also a problem for foundations. These roots can grow into or under your foundation, pushing it out of place and making your house less stable over time. It’s worth noting here that changes in roots and soil can also affect your foundation. Therefore, removing a tree that’s interfered with your foundation, thus causing the root system to die and the moisture levels in the soil to change, can also cause problems. However, it’s still generally recommended that you get rid of any tree that’s interfering with your foundation before the problem gets worse.

What Happens If You Don’t Do Anything to a Dying Tree?

Does all of this sound too overwhelming to deal with? You might be tempted to ignore the problem, hoping that your tree isn’t that bad off or that any disease will resolve itself, and we totally get it! The fact is, undeniably, that you can’t. Dead, dying, and diseased trees are hazardous.

Most importantly, remember that dying trees may lean alarmingly or lose deadwood branches on the ground. Imagine that one of those branches or the entire tree hits your car, your roof, or you. If you think having a tree removed sounds expensive, that’s nothing to the potential property damage, hospital bills, or lawsuit that a fallen tree could bring!

Dying trees can also attract pests that you definitely don’t want around. Termites and carpenter ants will eventually find their way from your dying tree to healthy trees in your yard and even your house. Along these same lines, tree diseases can also spread.

Put simply, a dying tree is dangerous and damaging. If you’ve been trying to save your tree to no avail, then it might be time to say goodbye. An arborist can help you know when a tree is beyond saving or otherwise too dangerous to hang onto.

Why You Should Hire Professional Arborists for Tree Maintenance

You’ll need to safely access the tree and use personal protective gear, along with professional grade technical rigging gear, and techniques to expertly and safely remove limbs and branches. It’s rare, but it is possible that homeowner’s have the correct equipment to fell a medium-sized tree. Here’s a rough list:

  • A chainsaw – Whether it’s an electric or gas chainsaw, this is an essential piece of equipment to efficiently fell any mature tree.
  • A ladder – This is essential especially during the set up of felling a tree. Often you will need to rope up a tree so it doesn’t hit an obstacle and that ladder comes in very handy. 
  • A good deal of rope – Rope is a must for taking down sections of a larger tree or controlling where pieces fall.
  • An axe – No matter the size of the tree, an axe comes in handy when you want to deal with smaller pieces and can even be used to fell smaller or injured trees.
  • Some wedges – These are a chainsaw’s or an axe’s best friend when cutting through a thick tree trunk.
  • Some safety equipment – Hard hat, work gloves, work boots, eye and ear protection as a safeguard from the tree and your own equipment.
  • First aid kit – This should be within your immediate reach.

Bringing down a tree is no small feat. If the tree is near buildings, cars, or a street, then it will need to be taken down in pieces. In other words, it won’t do to take an axe to it, yell timber, and run out of the way. You need to get into the tree and start cutting off pieces. This can present a safety risk, as a dead tree is not likely to have reliable load-bearing branches.

Additionally, tree fall is difficult to control. At best, you could do some serious damage to your yard or garden. At worst, you could inadvertently bring the tree down on your car or home. When considering how much you can afford for tree removal, factor in potential damages.

Don’t put your safety, home, and wallet at risk. Fielding Tree Care can diagnose and safely, efficiently, and affordably remove troublesome trees. Schedule a free onsite estimate with our team today.