Don’t let your Georgia trees die from lack of proper care. With basic tree care knowledge and a little effort, you can plant and keep your trees healthy and know what to do when problems arise.
georgiatreecare.wordpress.com assembled professional tips on tree planting, care basics, diseases, insects, and other common tree problems and solutions to create this comprehensive Georgia tree care guide.
Tree Planting in Georgia
Due to Georgia’s fertile land and moderate climate, planting and growing trees in the state is relatively easy to do. When planning a new landscape or just adding a tree to your yard, consider the following:
USDA Hardiness Zone Map – Plant and tree species have a better chance at thriving when planted in locations with similar temperatures to their native locations.
The USDA Hardiness Zone Map divides North America into 11 planting zones. Each planting zone is approximately 10°F colder (or warmer) than the adjacent zone during a typical winter season. When reading a tree description and you see “zone” or “hardiness zone,” it is referring to the USDA Hardiness Zone map. The hardiness zones found in Georgia are:
• 6a and 6b
• 7a and 7b
• 8a and 8b
To find the corresponding zone to your location on the hardiness zone map, go to planthardiness.ars.usda.gov and click on the state of Georgia.
Understory or Overstory Trees – An understory tree is a tree that grows to a maximum height of about 40 feet, and might be best if your planting location is restricted or you desire a mid-sized tree. The following species are considered understory, and are shade tolerant:
• Flowering Dogwood
• Crepe Myrtle
• Eastern Redbud
• White Fringetree
• Japanese Maple
• Black Aldar
If you have the real estate to accommodate its growth, the following overstory species reach mature heights of up to and over 100 feet:
• Southern Magnolia
• Green Ash
• Pine Trees
• White Oak
• Southern Red Oak
Tip: Understory trees can be planted near and around overstory trees to divert strong or persistent winds.
Deciduous or Evergreen Trees – On a very general basis, trees can be divided between evergreen and deciduous species.
If you are looking for a tree that will maintain a lush green appearance year-round, you are seeking an evergreen species which may include:
• Blue Spruce
• Pine Trees
It is important to note that evergreen trees will drop and replace foliage throughout the year. A severe loss or browning of the foliage, at any given time, may indicate disease, infestation, drought, or a nutrient imbalance.
If you enjoy fall colors as your tree prepares for dormancy in the winter, you are looking for one of the deciduous species which include:
Tip: Regarding aspens, the species has a vigorously invasive root system and will produce suckers that are clones of the original or mother tree. When planting this species, make certain that it has enough space to grow and spread without obstruction.
72 Tree Removal Services Alpharetta is an Alpharetta Ga tree service company with an arborist that’s an expert on tree planting and everything tree care related. If you live in North Georgia this crew is pure gold:
Planting Location – Before you plant a tree, it is wise to know the space it will occupy at maturity. Knowing the area your tree is going to need will help you determine how far it should be planted from structures and foundations.
Potential problems of planting a tree too close to a structure include:
• Branches falling (self-pruning) onto the structure.
• Roots growing under and buckling the foundation, sidewalk, driveway, etc.
• Uneven or unbalanced root development causing the tree to topple onto the structure.
Don’t forget to look up. Planting trees underneath power lines or close to them creates a potentially lethal combination once the tree is tall enough to interfere with the power lines.
Tree Care Basics
Caring for your tree starts before it is planted. By creating an optimal growing environment, you are giving your tree its best opportunity to grow long, deep roots and flourish throughout its lifetime. The following are tips to help you give your tree what it needs to thrive:
Soil Preparation – Each tree species grows better in slightly different soil compositions and types. The four principal types of soil are:
• Clay (dense and poorly drained)
• Sand (difficulty in retaining moisture and establishing roots)
• Silt (granular quartz or feldspar sized between clay and sand)
• Loam (a combination of the other three soil types)
While some tree species have adapted to grow in clay or sand soils, the vast majority flourish in silt or loam soil.
Soil pH Level – Each tree species will also have a preferred pH level. For example, pine trees are better off in acidic soil, while most hardwoods prefer neutral to slightly acidic soil.
Neutral soils contain a pH level of 6.5 to 7.5, acidic soils remain at levels below 6.5, and basic soils maintain a pH level above 7.5. The pH level of the soil can be lowered when sulfur or one of several fertilizers are mixed into it. The soil pH level can be raised by adding organic mulch or lime.
When planting a tree, the soil to fill in the hole and within a five-foot radius around the trunk should have its pH adjusted to meet the growth requirements of the tree.
Soil tests should be performed every four to six months for the first few years of growth. Root development, erosion, and other natural elements can cause fluctuations in the soil’s pH and should be adjusted as needed.
Watering Your Tree – Newly planted trees (in well-drained soil) require deep waterings every other week for about two years. Deep watering is when a slow stream of water penetrates more than ten to twelve inches deep into the soil.
By providing deep waterings, roots are encouraged to grow deeper and avoid surfacing. Surface roots are prone to damage, allowing successful attacks by insects, fungi, or both.
During the rainy season in Georgia, deep waterings can be further spaced apart, once every three weeks. During times of drought, these waterings should occur weekly.
Fertilizing Your Tree – We fertilize trees to provide essential nutrients and minerals that keep them flourishing and healthy. Healthy trees are more capable of defending themselves from infestations and diseases.
Timing is fundamental when fertilizing trees. Take the following into consideration:
• Newly planted trees should not be fertilized until the beginning of their second growing season.
• Trees should never be fertilized in mid to late summer. This encourages new growth that will not have time to acclimate for the winter months.
• Annual summer-time soil tests should be performed to determine which fertilizer composition to use.
While some may dispute when the best time is to fertilize trees, the majority consensus is to fertilize in late fall or late winter.
If your tree is showing signs of wilting, reduced leaf size, yellowing in the summer months, or early color change and leaf drop, you may need to adjust the composition of your fertilizer. However, before adjusting your fertilizer, it is essential that an infection or infestation be ruled out as the cause of the symptoms.
The following are common methods of fertilizer delivery:
• Surface application is the spreading of granular fertilizer on the ground around the tree.
• Foliar fertilization is the application of liquid fertilizer directly to the foliage of the tree.
• Fertilizer spikes can be driven into the ground around the base of the tree.
• Fertilizer holes are made by digging one-inch by eighteen-inch holes spaced around the base of the tree and filled with fertilizer.
• Fertilizer injections can be applied by drilling a hole into a tree trunk, injecting the fertilizer, then plugging the hole (the long-term effects of this method are still being evaluated).
Mulching Your Tree – Mulching your tree plays an essential roll in protecting its roots from overheating, drying out, or freezing. Consider mulch like an all-season protective blanket when properly applied.
Mulch is used to mimic the natural “blanket” formed around the base of a tree by falling foliage or needles. Besides regulating soil temperature and moisture, mulch is also highly effective at:
• Preventing soil compaction by serving as a “Do Not Park” indicator for vehicles and heavy equipment
• Stoping weed growth
• Insulating the soil from hot and freezing temperatures
• Improving soil fertility and health as it decomposes
• Aiding in the prevention of soil erosion
• Enhancing the visual appeal of the landscape
• Preventing lawnmower and landscaping equipment damage to the tree’s root flare and trunk.
The following are simple steps to mulch your tree properly:
• Establish a “no mulch zone” 8 to 12 inches from the root flare all the way around the tree.
• Remove or cut surrounding grass as low as possible from the “no mulch zone” to the tree’s dripline. (the dripline is the circle around a tree where the canopy ends)
• Collect and test a soil sample for its pH level and nutrient content.
• Provide a deep watering to the entire area to be mulched.
• Apply a 3 to 4-inch layer (up to 6 inches for areas with prolonged winter freezes) of mulch from the “no mulch zone” to the tree’s dripline.
• Make certain the mulch is not in contact with the tree’s trunk or root flare (to avoid rot and disease).
• Adjust the soil’s pH level or enrich it by applying fertilizer directly to the mulch. No need to mix it in, as watering and rain will carry it to the soil and roots.
Mulch should be fluffed up or replaced (if riddled with fungi and mold) in the fall. Never allow your mulch to rest against the root flare or tree trunk, this can cause the area to decay, destabilize the tree, and kill it.
Pruning Your Tree – Pruning is commonly defined as the removal of specific stems, branches, and limbs for the benefit of the entire tree. Pruning can also serve to:
• Thin the tree’s canopy
• Reduce the height of the tree
• Raise the canopy
• Remove insect-infested limbs
• Halt the progression of some diseases
• Remove dead branches or limbs
• Encourage new growth
• Shape the form of the tree
• Avoid power line or utility interference
• Safeguard underlying structures
Small branches and twigs can be pruned whenever needed, and at any time of the year. Branches comprising over 5-10% of the crown or more than one inch in diameter should only be pruned in late fall or winter when the tree is dormant.
When pruning smaller limbs, cut them off flush with the branch collar. These cuts should be made smooth and flat without damaging the branch collar.
Avoid tearing bark from the underside of larger or heavier branches and down the trunk by using a 3-cut method:
Cut #1 is the relief cut and should be 6 to 12 inches away from the trunk on the underside of the branch and should go 1/4 of the way through the branch (this is a stopping point if the bark should tear as the branch falls).
Cut #2 is made 6 to 12 inches further out from cut #1. This is a top-down cut and removes the branch from the tree.
Cut #3 is flush with the branch collar, removing the remaining – more manageable – portion of the branch.
If there is any doubt about the necessity to remove a branch or limb, or your capability to do so safely (branches and limbs may be much heavier than they appear to be), contact a professional tree service to evaluate the tree and offer guidance.
Fast Tree Removal Services Atlanta are experts at pruning, cutting, and emergency tree removal throughout Metro Atlanta. If you live in the city limits this is who can help you:
Annual Inspections and Hazard Assessments – A fundamental component of tree care is conducting an annual inspection or having a tree hazard assessment performed to detect and prevent illnesses and injury that may kill the tree.
Tree hazard (or tree risk) assessments reveal information to the surveyor and the tree owner about the health and stability of the tree being surveyed. These assessments are used to determine:
• The tree’s health and stability
• Whether the tree will remain stable during severe weather
• If the tree is an infestation or disease threat to surrounding trees
• If the tree is a pending threat to surrounding structures or people
• If a course of action including pruning or removal is necessary
The older a tree becomes, the more it will require inspections and hazard assessments. As trees age, they naturally become more massive, less flexible, and more susceptible to disease, rot, and infestations.
Common Georgia Tree Disease Identification and Treatments
The following diseases affect trees throughout the state of Georgia and should be addressed immediately upon diagnosis to prevent the death of the tree and spread of the disease:
Anthracnose – Tree anthracnose is caused by a fungal infection from a variety of fungal species. It is fueled by rainy weather conditions, insect contact, and human activities like pruning with infected equipment, splashing water, and composting infected plant material.
Symptoms of anthracnose include:
• Bud and twig death
• Dead spots on leaves
• Dead blotches between leaf veins
• Premature leaf drop
• Acervuli (dark-colored pimple-like fruiting structures on twigs and the underside of leaves)
Anthracnose treatment and prevention measures include:
• Sterilize your gardening and pruning equipment after each use and between each tree
• Use fungicides to curtail the disease from spreading
• Use watering systems that do not spray or splash water
• Destroy fallen leaves from infected trees
• Prune back infected areas with dead twigs, infected foliage, and cankers
If these pruning activities will affect more than 25% of the tree’s crown, call a professional tree service for guidance.
Todd’s Marietta Tree Services is another local tree expert that removes diseased and damaged trees. If you are near Marietta or northwest Georgia, these are your guys:
Fire Blight – This disease is caused by bacteria that commonly attack fruit trees and, like anthracnose, can be easily spread by rainy weather conditions, insect and bird contact, pruning with infected equipment, splashing water, and composting blight-infected plant material.
Symptoms of fire blight include
• Flowers and blooms will turn black and die
• Twigs will turn black and curl over as they die
• Leaves on infected branches wilt and turn black
• Cankers develop where the disease is present
Fire blight has no cure. Extensive pruning, together with bactericides, is necessary to combat the spreading of the disease.
Pest control and strict sanitation regimens for tools and equipment are fundamental in preventing the disease’s spread.
Common Georgia Insect Infestation Identification and Treatments
The following tree pests are common throughout the state of Georgia and can result in the destruction of acres of trees if allowed to reach infestation proportions:
Ambrosia Beetle – The granulate ambrosia beetle (Xylosandrus Crassiusculus) is responsible for the decline and death of countless trees in Georgia and the southern states.
Among the many tree species affected by this beetle are crape myrtles, magnolias, oaks, willows, peach, Japanese maples, ash, dogwood, beech, and birch. Some of the signs of an ambrosia beetle infestation are:
• Wilting of terminal foliage on branches and twigs.
• Severe dieback.
• Entry holes on the trunk, branch, or twig.
• Blackening of the tissue surrounding the entry hole or of the “pith” which is the nutrient-rich tissue beneath the xylem and phloem in branches, twigs, and stems.
• Sawdust “toothpicks” protruding from the hole bored into the tree.
Controlling an ambrosia beetle infestation relies heavily on preventative measures. Your unaffected trees should be treated with insecticides to dissuade the beetle from attacking them.
Using insecticides on trees that have already become hosts will have little to no effect. At this point, you are not only fighting the beetle, but the ambrosia fungus being cultivated within the tree to feed the emerging offspring.
The use of fungicides to control the ambrosia fungus may be carried into the tree’s hydraulic system killing it. That’s if the extensive pruning to remove the beetle doesn’t kill the tree first.
In all cases of boring insects, it is recommended to hire a professional tree service to evaluate the situation and make recommendations as to the proper course of action. Your case may be one of many in an outbreak, and if you mishandle a beetle infestation, it could be the source of the outbreak.
Carpenter Ants – You may not think of ants as tree-boring insects, and you are correct. The presence of carpenter ants entering and exiting holes in your tree is a sign of something far more urgent.
Carpenter ants don’t chew their way into the heartwood of a tree; they will, however, remove the heartwood softened by a fungal infection and build a nest for their colony within the tree.
Previous infestations, poor pruning habits, and disease can all contribute to the declining health of a tree, and the successful infestation of it by opportunistic carpenter ants. Knots, old insect tunnels, holes, cracks, and poorly healed pruning cuts all give carpenter ants access to your tree.
In advanced cases of internal decay, mushroom conks will also grow from the trunk, branches, and root flare of the tree.
A carpenter ant infestation should be addressed by a professional tree service immediately to evaluate the stage of internal damage to your tree and whether or not it can be successfully treated.
Tree Removal Permit Process in Atlanta, Georgia
While tree removal permit requirements vary from city to city, the requirements outlined in the City of Atlanta are worth citing, as they serve to protect the city’s tree canopy, while making sure that dead, dying, or dangerous trees are correctly eliminated.
When your tree is dead, dying, diseased, or severely infested, the following steps will help you attain a tree removal permit in the City of Atlanta:
Step One: Fill out and submit a tree removal permit application. Applications can be mailed, faxed, emailed or delivered in-person to the City of Atlanta Arborist Division at 55 Trinity Avenue, 3rd Floor – Suite 3800, Atlanta, Georgia 30303
Step Two: Within 5 business days, an assigned arborist will visit and complete a field inspection.
Step Three: If the application is approved, the field inspection report will be returned to you and must remain on-site while the tree removal process takes place.
Appeal: If your permit is denied, an appeal may be made to the Tree Conservation Commission, at which time a public hearing will take place where you can explain your situation and request a reversal of the denial.
To learn more about tree removal permits in Atlanta or other cities in the state of Georgia, visit treeremovalpermit.com/georgia/.
Power Line or Utility Interfering Tree
Throughout Georgia, intense rainstorms, hailstorms, wind, snow, and flooding are all commonplace occurrences. When severe weather strikes, trees in weakened conditions are bound to topple.
When those trees fall on or get tangled in power lines, never attempt to free, prune, or remove the tree from those power lines. Trees can become energized by electrical currents and electrocute you.
Residents throughout Georgia, where Georgia Power provides electrical services, are encouraged to report any tree on public or private property, which poses a hazard to power lines by calling (888) 891-0938 and pressing option #3 – dangerous condition.
If you reside in one of the four Georgia counties where Georgia Power does not provide electrical services, locate your most recent light bill and contact your provider to remove or cut an interfering tree.
Tree Care in Georgia
In this article, you discovered pro tips for tree planting and care, and what to do when problems arise.
Don’t let your trees wither and die because of your lack of knowledge about what they need to thrive when planted and as they mature.
When tree emergencies arise, your fast and deliberate response could mean the difference between a simple pruning job or the complete removal of the tree.