10 Ways to Kill your Tree

There are many things you can do to encourage the health of your tree. There are also many things that you do that will kill your tree. In fact, the actions of tree owners probably result in more tree deaths than all insects and diseases combined. Many times, the action itself does not immediately kill a tree, but rather, sets in motion a chain of events that ultimately shortens the tree’s life. What are these actions? The following are the most prevalent ways to commit arboricide, directly or indirectly:

  1. Planting a large tree in a small place.
  2. Incorrect pruning (TOPPING).
  3. Wounding the tree with string trimmers or mowers.
  4. Planting the tree too deep or piling too much soil on the roots.
  5. Over watering or over mulching
  6. Application of herbicides too close to the tree
  7. Untreated insect or disease problems.
  8. Girdling twine at the base or girdling from guy wires.
  9. Construction damage.
  10. Planting the tree in incompatible soil (too wet or too dry) or in the wrong exposure.

Most of these items are self-explanatory, but several warrant discussion. Tree topping is one of the worst things you can do to a tree. This practice causes large open wounds which expose the tree to decay and invasion from insects and disease. Also, the loss of foliage starves the tree which weakens the roots and reduces the trees structural strength. While a tree may survive topping, its life will be significantly reduced. Proper pruning is an important part of caring for and protecting the health of your trees.

Damaging the trunk of your tree with string trimmers, mowers or girdling twine or wire will also cause your tree an untimely demise. The nutrient carrying component of your tree (the cambium layer) is just under the bark. If this layer is damaged, or in the worst possible case, completely girdled the tree will be deprived of nutrients, including water and will decline or die. Tree paint is no longer a recommended treatment for wounds.

Having a pool put in or an addition put on your house? Don’t let the construction crew pile anything near your valuable trees. Or worse yet, don’t let them ride over the root zone of your healthy trees with their heavy equipment. Most homeowners think that construction activity around nearby trees is acceptable as long as they are not digging near the trees. Soil compaction will suffocate the roots and endanger the tree just as much as digging close to the tree. Don’t forget, 90% of the trees nutrient-providing roots are in the top 12” of soil.