Tree Care 101: Beginners Guide to Happy, Healthy Trees

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Trees are superheroes when it comes to our planet. They clean the air, combat climate change, keep us cool, save water and so much more! We've gathered some helpful tips and tricks so you can keep the trees in your life happy and healthy for years to come.

Austin Parks Foundation recognizes the importance of trees not just to our planet, but also to our city's overall ecosystem and our parks. This is why there's a large focus on tree care projects on It's My Park Day, our bi-annual, city-wide day of volunteering in parks.

Please be aware that tree care in public spaces such as parks requires coordination with Austin Parks Foundation and/or Austin Parks and Recreation Department.

When caring for trees at home, here's how you can properly show your trees some love through proper mulching, watering, pruning and more:

Tree Mulching Tips: Blankets vs. Pillows

The key to properly mulching your tree is to avoid smothering it! Keep a 3-inch ring of clear space between mulch and base of the tree. You also want to avoid a large mound. Trees thrive with a thin layer of mulch - think a 2-4 inch blanket rather than 6-8 inch pillow.

If you've just planted a young tree, mulch it as soon as you can. This will insulate the roots, keep in the moisture and protect the tree from extreme temperatures. This will be especially important in the hot Texas summers or extended dry periods.

In addition, mulch beds prevent lawn mowers from compacting the soil around trees! Condensing the soil prevents air and water from moving freely and getting to the roots.

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Tree Watering Tips: Talking Hydration

Everyone knows that trees need water to thrive, but many don't know the right amount or frequency. Well, it depends on the species and environment of the tree. Younger and newly planted trees require much more water than older, more established trees.

Your goal should be to water out to the tree's canopy, at a depth of 10 inches if possible. The most common mistake when it comes to watering trees is over-watering them. It's important to maintain a balance between allowing the soil to dry up and making the ground soggy.

Consistency is key! Erratic watering schedules can stress the tree, opening it up to risk of disease and infestation. If the tree is properly mulched, you're set up for success when it comes to keeping your tree hydrated.

Interested in rainwater harvesting? Rain is the cleanest, most eco-friendly source of water around! Learn more about the process of collecting rainwater and how to get started here.

Planting a new tree? Be sure to plant it in the right spot! Follow Arbor Day Foundation's Right Tree in the Right Place guidelines for a proper landscape. This will also help you gauge how much water your tree needs.

These helpful tree watering tips comes from The Arbor Day Foundation!

Tree Pruning Tips: Branching Out

Properly pruning a tree starts with safety! Protective equipment such as gloves or eye wear will keep you protected from sharp tools and debris. You want to make sure the job isn't too large. If pruning requires a ladder or climbing to reach the branches, you should consider hiring a professional.

Before you get started, make sure to clean and sharpen your pruning tools. Dirty tools can cause pathogens to spread within trees and plants. It's also important to get to know the tree. Which direction are the branches growing? Where would they fall if they were removed? Do I have the right equipment?

It's recommended to trim branches away from the branch collar - the swelled-up area that connects the branch and tree.

For a skinny branch (less than an inch in diameter), cut just beyond the branch collar without cutting into it. You'll want to cut at a 45-60 degree angle.

For a thicker branch, cut halfway into the bottom of the branch 10-15 inches away from the branch collar. Next, move down a couple inches and cut into the top of the branch and let it fall to the ground. Now, you can make your final cut just beyond the branch collar.

Heads up! Because pruning has major implications with the health of the tree, we ask that you avoid pruning trees in public spaces like parks. We do not encourage any of our volunteers to prune while on projects.

These helpful tree pruning tips come from The Davey Tree Expert Company!


Tree Care Beginners and Pros Needed

Whether you're just getting started or a total tree care pro, we could use your help in the parks! Join us during our First Saturday volunteer opportunities, many of which include essential care for trees in public spaces across Austin.

We hope you found these tree care tips helpful. If you end up using these tips to care for your trees at home, show us your tree by tagging us on social media! Give us a follow: