How to Keep Your Trees and Shrubs Thriving

“I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.” –Joyce Kilmer

Trees are undoubtedly beautiful wherever they are, but they are so much more than that.  They are protectors from a storm.  Relief from a relentless summer sun.

As a commercial property manager or owner in St. Louis, you know that trees are a vital part of your landscape for the beauty they bring, yes, but did you know that strategically placed trees can save you money.  How?  They cool your buildings in the summer heat and cut the harsh winter winds, saving you money on heating and cooling, which, for commercial properties is among the highest expense.  According to the USDA Forest Service, if trees are strategically planted around your building, you can cut air conditioning costs as much as 30% and between 20-50% of your heating costs.    

Trees and shrubs absorb CO2 and release oxygen which is good for our health as well as that of the planet.  One hundred trees absorb 53 tons of carbon dioxide and 430 pounds of other air pollutants per year.  They absorb pollutants and trap them one their leaves and on their bark and also filter them through their roots.  The shade they provide saves water required by your turf. 

Roots from trees and shrubs act as anchors for your soil and prevent erosion from heavy St. Louis rain or wind, and the more they mature, the more value they add to your property.  For properties with retail businesses, trees mean that shoppers stay longer, and for residential properties or office buildings, trees provide a relaxation space.  Trees and shrubs add monetary value to your property, so the preservation of these assets of your commercial property is simply important for your bottom line.  

Because shrubs can be shaped, they can be effective in hiding electrical or other equipment or for defining walkways or borders.  But they can save you money as well.  Like trees, they can cut down on wind and have a cooling effect, but by planting shrubs around your air conditioning units, you improve their efficiency by keeping them cool and they help to muffle the sound of the units, making for a more peaceful setting.

Shrubs don’t take as long as trees to mature, so some can be planted as mature plants which makes them a versatile solution for a professional, well-manicured commercial property.

Taking Care of Trees and Shrubs

With each passing year, your trees become taller, stronger and more beautiful.  Just like you, they should have regular check-ups to make sure they haven’t fallen victim to disease or other issues.  At Bluegrass, we know that every tree is different and has its own unique needs, so our experienced arborists ensure that your trees and shrubs get the individualized care they need for a long and healthy life.

Planting Them

It’s important to take special care when planting a tree.  Contrary to popular belief, you must remove the cage and the burlap around the root ball.  Burlap is used because it’s biodegradable, but it can take a lot of time for it to decompose and any twine left on it could choke the tree as it grows.  Use an axe or shovel to remove any excess dirt from around the roots and check to make sure they’re not entwined.  Place the tree into the hole and keep the collar above the level of the soil.  Gently place high-quality soil around the roots of the tree and before you firmly press the soil down, stand back and make sure it’s straight.  Once you’re sure it can stand alone, install a mulch ring around the tree.  Mulch rings are an effective way to retain water and add nutrients as the wood bark breaks down and is incorporated into the soil.

Watering Them.

The first time you water your newly planted tree, you should soak the tree and all of the ground surrounding it.  At this point, don’t worry about overwatering.  Your tree needs a good drink of water to help it get established.  After its initial planting, the watering schedule for the tree can vary greatly depending on the season.  Typically, your tree should receive 1.5 inches of water or rainfall for the first year.  During the summer months, the top 4 inches of soil near the top of the root ball should be checked every 2 or 3 days to make sure the soil isn’t too dry.  If it is, water it thoroughly.  All newly planted trees and shrubs should be watered this frequently.           

It’s important that we make sure your mature trees and shrubs are being watered properly as well.  As droughts become more common so does the danger to your trees and shrubs.  Some are more drought-resistant than others which should be a consideration if you’re installing new plantings in an area prone to drought, and for existing trees and shrubs, adjustments should be made to your irrigation schedule during dryer months.  However, over-watering them can be a danger as it can cause the roots to rot and die quickly.  The placement of your sprinkler heads can cause problems for your trees and shrubs if they are aimed at the plant, especially for the bark.  The bark is the tree’s protective outer shell and water aimed directly at it cause the bark to peel off or rot.

Protect them.   

Damage to your trees’ bark can also happen due to inattentive workers which is why our crews are aware of the damage that their mowers, weed whackers, and other equipment can do to trees, and are always cautious when using equipment near them.  Putting a ring of mulch around trees and shrubs is not only appealing, it can protect them as well.

Mulch Them.  

Mulch is a great aid to your trees’ and shrubs’ longevity.  It helps to retain moisture, keeps weeds from germinating and popping up which compete with your plants for water and provide homes for pests, and a thick layer of mulch makes your soil healthy and nutrient rich.  A mulch ring around your tree should be large enough to cover the root system so depending on the tree, it can vary in size.

Give Them Space.

For trees and shrubs to thrive, they mustn’t be crowded.  We all like a little elbow room and your trees and shrubs are no exception.  Their roots need room to stretch and grow, and shouldn’t have other trees or shrubs too close to them to compete for nutrients and space.

Aerate Their Soil.  

If your soil is compacted, it could mean big trouble for your trees and shrubs.  Without healthy soil that has adequate oxygen in it, water will have difficulty reaching your trees’ roots.  The hard, compacted dirt will also make your roots grow shallow and they’ll have a more difficult time sustaining the tree.  Aeration of the soil around the tree that is directly below where the branches extend will help the most crucial part of the root system get the nutrients it needs to grow strong.  For older, more established trees, an air spade can be used to loosen and aerate the soil around the roots.

Prune Them.

Most trees and shrubs need to be pruned during the dormant season of fall or in early spring.  For large, mature trees, pruning isn’t so much about shaping them as it is removing any areas where there are dead branches, branches that are rubbing together, insect infestation, the appearance of disease, or low-hanging branches that could be a potential hazard.  Pruning trees can be extremely dangerous so be sure to find a local professional to help you, but first be sure that they are fully licensed and have appropriate insurances.

For smaller trees and shrubs, we look for the same issues that you may find with mature trees, but pruning them will keep them looking neat with a pleasing or strategic shape, and will also promote growth and make them look fuller.  Meticulously pruned shrubs say a lot about your business:  you are professional with a high attention to detail.  As shrubs are often used to hide utility boxes or define property borders, it says you and your businesses are organized.   

Fertilize Them.

Trees and shrubs need food too.  If there are any nutrients missing in the soil, your plantings may suffer.  Regular fertilization gives your trees and shrubs the complete nutrients they need to not only survive harsh St. Louis weather conditions but to thrive in spite of them.  Many factors can cause your soil to have inadequate elements for our plants’ growth.  We ensure that all of your plants, from the smallest flower to the biggest tree, has the right balance of nutrition to grow big and strong.

Be on the Lookout for Tree Diseases

There are several different diseases and infestations that can occur in trees, each with their own treatment or solution.  Some can be treated and recover and live long lives, while others may need to be removed in order to keep surrounding trees from being infected.  Regardless of the disease, it’s always best to hire a local professional or arborist to find the best way to treat the disease.  

When Trees Die

We like to think that trees live for hundreds of years, and some do, but at some point, they die, sometimes naturally, with no apparent reason.  One way to know that your tree is dying is that leaves become fewer and fewer, the bark becomes brittle, and limbs die and fall from the tree.  Occasionally, you will see saplings sprouting from the bottom trunk as the tree makes a last-ditch effort to save itself.  Trees can die due to damage from a storm, equipment, and even from animals.  Sometimes it’s a lack of natural water or too much.  No matter what the cause, planting a new tree in its place will help keep the world a greener, more beautiful place.     

Trees and shrubs can be a fairly low maintenance part of your overall commercial landscape, but they’re not no maintenance.  With proper care and maintenance from a conscientious, quality landscape company like Bluegrass, your trees and shrubs can be a beautiful and professional-looking part of your commercial property for many years.  Call us today at (314)770-2828 and let us help you care for these important assets.