Tree of the Month: Maple Trees
Maples are among North America’s most beloved deciduous trees. Whether you appreciate them for their tasty syrup, breath-taking fall colors or shade on a hot summer day, maples are certainly a good choice for many landscapes. You have a variety of maples to choose from, including slow-growing hard maples and fast-growing soft maples of varying heights and leaf types. Learn helpful planting, maintaining and pruning tips for the healthiest maples possible.
Choose the Right Spot
An important way to set up your maple tree for success is to plant it in full sun where the soil drains well.
Enrich the Soil
The best contribution you can make to your maple tree’s health is to add mycorrhizal fungi to the soil. Dig three to six shallow holes around your newly planted sapling with a soil auger and pour mycorrhizal fungi into each hole. You can also dig deeper holes around established trees and add mycorrhizal fungi to each hole to help these trees grow stronger. Check the packaging to determine how much you should use based on the size of your tree.
Water the Tree
Thoroughly water all around the maple tree so the soil is dampened to a depth of 1 to 3 feet. Continue to water the tree weekly to help it stay healthy, especially in times of drought.
Protect the Tree
Erect a trellis around the vulnerable maple sapling to help protect it from high winds and animals.
Water the Tree Deeply
Maples require the most maintenance for the first two years after planting. Start by watering thoroughly once a week during the growing season. After the tree is established, water in this way only during periods of drought.
Keep a 2- to 3-foot radius around the tree free of weeds for the first year. Pull weeds by hand and spread mulch to help prevent future weed growth.
Apply slow-release nitrogen/phosphorous/potassium fertilizer twice a month in the spring and once a month in the summer.
Wait until the Right Time
Pruning promotes new growth and helps your tree look more attractive. To prevent messy, sticky sap from slowing down the process, wait until mid-summer or late fall to prune, the two most likely times for low sap production. Even then, some sap is inevitable, so wear protective gloves, eyewear and clothes you don’t mind throwing away, just in case.
Trim Away Dead Branches First
About one foot away from the trunk, make a cut halfway through a branch from the underside. Make a second cut from the top until you meet the initial cut. This ensures your hands aren’t in the way when the branch falls. Now remove the branch stub with a single downward cut a few inches away from the trunk. After removing all dead branches this way, assess your work before moving on to get an idea of how the tree looks with only live branches remaining.
Trim Away Other Branches Next
Go back and cut away suitable branches to maximize the aesthetics of your maple. The types of branches to trim away include those that grow straight up, down or against other branches. Remove these to help create a healthy looking canopy spread.
Thin Out the Interior
With large branches removed, finish the pruning process by removing a few smaller branches and twigs from the interior of the canopy. This helps more light reach interior branches for large leaves and a thick canopy.