Shade Trees

A shade tree is any tree grown specifically for its shade bearing features. This term usually applies to large trees with spreading canopies. Shade trees are effective in reducing the energy used in cooling homes. Some of the most popular shade trees are Oaks, Maples, Ashes, Lindens, and Elms. Things to look for when choosing a shade tree include deciduous, coverage, longevity, and the ability of the roots to damage foundations. Shade trees enhance the privacy of a home and garden by obstructing the view and make for wonderful additions to large yards.

Seasonal information: During dormancy, no growth occurs in the upper branches of a shade tree, and attention is given to growing a stronger root system. This stronger root system will better support foliage growth in the spring. It is best to plant shade trees now as they enter a stage of dormancy in the fall. Dormancy is somewhat similar to hibernation for animals. In the winter, a hibernating animal’s respiration and heart beat slows. Shade trees also slow their growth functions in the fall and winter. This lasts until spring when the warm weather and warm soil trigger renewed growth.

Location: Shade trees must not be planted near chimneys, as flying fire sparks can ignite shade tree branches, causing rapidly expanding fires. Fast growing shade trees can grow all over North America in virtually every soil condition. Empress trees grow in the greatest variety of soil conditions, and have even reportedly been successfully grown in toxic soils.

Planting instructions: Plant your new shade tree in a wide, shallow hole, at least twice the width of the root ball. In the past, gardeners have been advised to plant shade trees in holes of many different shapes and sizes. But contemporary recommendations reflect new findings in how shade tree roots grow. Many shade trees concentrate their feeding roots in the top foot of soil. A wide hole loosens up an open, surface-hugging expanse for the early growth of these roots and will help young trees get established more quickly. There is no need to amend the soil, shade trees thrive best when they are established in native soil.

Watering: Watering should be followed depending on the shade tree you choose, but should usually increase watering routines in warmer climates and reduce them in winter or cooler climates.

Fertilization: If a soil test shows low phosphorus or low potassium levels, add the needed amount of fertilizer (based on soil-test results plus guidelines on the product package) by incorporating it into the outer two feet of the tilled circular area. Apply a quick-release nitrogen fertilizer at a rate that does not exceed a tenth of a pound per square foot. Repeat nitrogen application in the spring of the second growing season, before leaves begin to bud, to encourage rapid growth. Examine your established shade tree in subsequent years for signs that fertilizer may be needed. Measure the length of new shoot growth, the growth from the present year. If it is fewer than 2 inches, apply nitrogen fertilizer. If shade tree leaves turn yellow during the growing season — not in the fall — or are off color, investigate possible nutrient deficiencies with a soil test. At any rate, get a soil test every three to five years to determine whether fertilization is needed.

Weed Control: If you have a shade tree, examine your lawn regularly, especially in the summer and fall months. Look for the growth of saplings in your lawn, dig them up, and destroy them. Alternatively, you can use a weed control product to spray on the lawn. By aerating, fertilizing, scheduled watering and mowing, you can create a thicker lawn carpet that will prevent seeds from taking root and propagating into shade tree saplings.

Pests and Disease: Always monitor shade plants for signs of pests and disease – while uncommon, usual garden pests can infiltrate the leaves and root system. Several varieties of shade tree are considered to be relatively free of insect pests. They include the Bur, English, pin, red, swamp white and white oak. Several types of insects, such as leaf eaters, scale insects and moths, can attack the trees., but few pose serious problems.

Pruning: The first step is to evaluate the top of the growth on the shade tree. Cut out any broken, dead, or diseased branches and shape what is left into a miniature version of its maturity. Thin the top branches to stimulate new growth, and cut out up to one-third of the stems if necessary to balance pruned roots. Choose one main trunk for your shade shade tree and then trim the others away within the first three years of planting them. Make clean cuts at a slight angle that sheds water away from the cuts surface to reduce the possibility of disease invasions.

Pollination: When warmer weather arrives and the snow melts, it’s the start of shade tree reproduction. In response to the season change, the shade tree grows leaves.
 As spring progresses, the shade tree sprout flowers. They come in a variety of colors such as green, yellow, orange, and red. The flowers are a source of food for hungry bees and other pollinators. Shade tree produces pollen particles that look like a yellow haze and often cause allergy symptoms to erupt in those who come in contact with it.
 Usually the seed will germinate within the year, depending on weather and type of the shade tree.