COS Tree Challenge: Caring for your tree

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Caring for Trees for Future Generations

It’s hard to imagine Colorado Springs as a treeless shortgrass prairie, but that’s exactly what it was before General Palmer founded the City in 1871. Over the next 150 years, residents planted thousands of trees to provide shade, beauty and environmental benefits. Because our forerunners planted trees, we now have beautiful homes, thriving businesses and world-class public spaces. 

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Now, it’s our generation’s turn to take care of our community’s trees. Although it can seem like they sustain themselves, in our semi-arid climate they need our continued support to live long, healthy lives. Here are five things you can do to ensure your trees thrive for many years to come.  

Water regularly

Landscape trees need to be watered consistently. If they’re planted close to an irrigated lawn, their roots can take up water when the lawn is watered. If they’re not close to a green lawn, plan to water at least once per month. Smaller trees need less water more often, while large trees need more water once per month. Colorado Springs Utilities has a Tree and Shrub Watering Guide that teaches you how to water your trees. And yes, just like shade trees, evergreens and native trees need extra water during hot, dry periods. Watering consistently is the most important thing you can do to help your trees thrive.

Water in the right location

Don’t water a tree close to its trunk. Instead, water the soil at the dripline, or the area directly under the tips of the branches to five feet outward where the water-absorbing roots are located. Apply water to the soil surface rather than using deep-watering needles. Most of the roots live in the top 2 feet of soil, whereas watering needles can place the water deeper than the root zone.

Fertilize wisely

Although it may seem like a good thing to fertilize trees, they only need extra nutrients during certain life stages. Old, mature trees don’t need much fertilizer since they don’t grow much. Likewise, newly planted trees don’t need fertilizer until after they grow a new root system over the next few years. Once you see its growth taking off and the branches growing significantly longer than they have in the past, it’s mature enough to be fertilized occasionally. 

Prune occasionally

Having your trees pruned by an arborist can help make their branches less likely to break during big storms. This can be done every several years and is most important 5-10 years after the tree is planted, when it is developing its main branching structure. This investment will pay off during heavy spring snowstorms when branches are more likely to break.

Taking care of trees is an investment in the most valuable plants in our landscape. By watering, fertilizing and pruning wisely, our trees will help create a healthy urban forest for Colorado Springs residents of the next 150 years.

Let’s each do our part. Visit Utilities’ tree planting page for more information on water-wise tree species, smart planting steps and watering guidelines.

This article was submitted by Catherine Moravec, a senior water conservation specialist with Colorado Springs Utilities, a marketing partner of the COS 150: Tree Challenge. Remember, after you plant a new tree, be sure to add it to the tree tracker so that it counts toward the citywide goal of 18,071 new trees in celebration of our 150th anniversary, or sesquicentennial.

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