Trees can add value and beauty to your home. Central Texas has many beautiful native tree species including our trademark evergreen Live Oaks and Junipers (mistakenly called Cedars) and deciduous Pecan trees. Be sure your trees are healthy additions to your property by planting the right trees in the best place followed by sensible care. Don’t put your house at unnecessary risk with trees planted too close or prone to fall. Sensible care and management of your trees is part of home ownership, The main components of a tree are its leaves (or needles), branches, trunk and roots. The leaves are where the action is. This is where the tree converts sunlight, nutrients and water to food. The green color is characteristic of this process call photosynthesis. If your deciduous tree hasn’t budded out in early spring and spread a canopy of bright green leaves by late spring, the tree is in trouble. On evergreens, the needle color should also be green and the canopy of needles dense.
Branches keep the leaves in position and support the canopy. Strong main branches with well formed forks are key. The general rule is to remove any branches that are unproductive to the overall canopy as part of your ongoing management but be sure to understand your specific tree species’ care needs. Check your tree annually to remove any dead or damaged branches. Also remove any branches that are in contact with your roof or walls. Note: due to Oak Wilt fungus, it is very important to only prune Oak trees after June and before February and to properly paint any wounds year round.
A dominant trunk separates the trees from the bushes. Be watchful of any bark damage. Be sure to loosen any straps around trunks to avoid damage to young trees and remove them once established. Be careful with your weedwacker and other tools to avoid damage to your tree trunks. The main growing part of a tree is just inside the outer bark. A strong trunk is critical to the long term safety of your tree. Roots are the critical foundation of any tree. The roots underground can be as large as the tree above the ground. This is the trees access to water and nutrients. It also provides the stability to keep a tree standing tall. You want to be careful in digging anywhere in the drip line (think of the circle on the ground the size of the tree canopy) of a tree to avoid cutting the roots. Mulch in the drip line can save moisture and cool the roots.
Planning for Trees-A couple main ideas in planting trees: select an adapted or native species, plan for mature size and pick a tree for the long run. Austin has very strict water use restrictions during the summer. An adapted or native tree selection will have water use that is moderate. Avoid trees that require excessive watering after they are established. Care in planning tree locations based on mature size is important particularly in terms of placement around your house building, gardens, other trees, sidewalks and the driveway. Often, with a new house, the contractor puts the city required two tree saplings far too close together and with less than inspired placement. Fix this error quickly and you can relocate one of the small trees before the roots are established. Also, you want a tree to shade your house and reduce cooling costs in the summer but don’t make the mistake of planting a tree too close and risk damage to your foundation from roots or damage to your roof from large branches.