5 Tips on How to Grow and Care For Your 250+ Year Old Tree 
Global Tree Preservation
How to Grow and Care For Your 250+ Year Old Tree, Part 1 of 5
by Rachel and Odis Sisk

Just because a tree is large or declining, doesn't mean it needs to come down.  Tree removal is a last resort. 

Even a tree with health problems can potentially be provided with a better ecosystem to help prolong its lifespan.  A tree's internal health is not only determined by the symptoms it gives externally, but an internal portion can also be scientifically charted by a resistograph. 

Large, mature trees come to mind when prompted for images of The South.  However, old growth forests and trees are quickly becoming lost to logging, urban stresses, and preferential treatment to small replacement trees.  In cities and urban areas, city planners frequently elect to plant trees with a set lifespan.  They plant them with limited resources, so the tree only lasts about 10 years.  (You can see the degradation mapped in the middle image below.) 

Trees are able to grow in forests for years untouched by people.  Trees naturally take care of themselves.
Methuselah Walk, CA

Methuselah, the oldest known non-clonal tree, is about 4,844 years old. 
(This is a photo of its forest.  The exact location is undisclosed.)
General Sherman. CA
General Sherman, a giant sequoia, is the largest known living single stem tree. 
Measured by volume, it is 52,513 cu ft.
When people place houses, cars, and walkways underneath and around trees is when Tree Care comes into play. 

This populated, built environment adds stress to trees.  We often see improperly pruned trees, few mature sized trees, water management issues, and depeleted nutrient and soil requirements.  We must help each tree retain and often regain its vitality when stressed by the urban environment.   

Still, it is possible to make sure your trees have everything they need to grow healthy, large, and beautiful.  In turn, your trees are able to give back more to you when properly cared for as we discussed in last quarter's Preservation Report, The Value of Trees.

Trees in urban environments deal with these common stresses.

- Construction Damage
- Restricted Living space
- Obstructions
- Compact Soil
- Mechanical Damage


What you can do to protect the longevity of your trees.

1.  Soil Decompaction

Monitor your tree's soil compaction.  The soil around your trees can become too hard for them to absorb enough nutrients.  Soil compaction is the biggest offender of stressing trees.  It often goes unnoticed, reducing root growth and further increasing the chance of root rot, overthrow from wind, and compounding structural damage.

Soil compaction can happen from many things:
- Driving or foot traffic over the tree's root zone (even in something small such as a golf cart)
- Removing leaves from the base of the tree
- Never mulching
- Clay substrate
- Changing the soil level

Symptoms of highly compacted soil:
- Surface roots beyond the root flare
- Lack of organic matter
- Water runoff issues
- Dieback on the tips of branches or the new year's foliage is off color

Yes, I want more information on this topic:
+  What is Soil Compaction, and Why is Decompaction Necessary?
Watch a video of Odis decompacting soil.
(After clicking, scroll down the list to "Decompaction")

The following Preservation Reports will discuss these 4 tips to care for your 250+ year old tree.
2. Proper pruning
3. Mulching
4. Watering
5. Not physically damaging the tree 


Joan Maloof's Among The Ancients:  Adventures in the Eastern Old-Growth Forests is an enjoyable read. 

Maloof presents straightforward directions to 26 old growth forests and documents each of her corresponding journeys for those unable to go themselves.

Dr. Joan Maloof, Ph.D. is an emeritus professor of biology and environmental studies at Salisbury University, MD.

She is currently creating the "Old Growth Network."  Eventually, a portion of forest in each county in the nation (except 770 of the 3,140) will be dedicated to remain untouched by development and available to all.  

More about Joan: 
Where to find her books

More about the Old Growth Network:


June Preservation Project

Jim Walters, owner of several properties lining Green St. has joined us in our tree preservation efforts to care for more of Gainesville's big beautiful trees. 

Trees all along the historic street have started to decline due to several urban environmental stresses.  We don't want to imagine Green St. without all of the large old trees.

Thank you Mr. Walters for helping keep Green St. Green!
Area of Virgin Forest from 1620 to 1920

It is important to protect our trees.

Area of US Virgin forest in 1620, 1850, and 1920.  It looks even more non-existent today.  What a difference!

Maps from William B. Greeley's, The Relation of Geography to Timber Supply, Economic Geography, 1925, vol. 1, p. 1-11.
Don't Let Your Trees Go Topless
"Topping is perhaps the most harmful tree pruning practice known.

Yet, despite more than 25 years of literature and seminars explaining its harmful effects, topping remains a common practice."

~ International Society of Arboriculture

Click this link for Illustrated info on why topping is bad.

Copyright © 2012 Odis and Rachel Sisk at Green Prism Consulting, All rights reserved.
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