Proper watering during the first two years after planting is the most critical maintenance requirement. Property owners should water the tree in its first and second year. Keep the soil moist but not water-logged. Water trees once a week barring rain, and more frequently during hot, windy weather. Check soil moisture by inserting a garden trowel two inches into the ground, and then moving the blade of the trowel back and forth to create a small narrow trench. Touch the soil. If the soil is moist to the touch, hold off on watering. When the soil is dry below the surface of the mulch, it is time to water. Continue until mid-Autumn, tapering off as lower temperatures require less frequent watering.
Mulch the base of the tree, but avoid mulching more than two inches deep. It is also important to keep mulch pulled back one to two inches away from the trunk of the tree to prevent moist bark conditions and the potential for decay.
Mulch is organic matter spread around the base of a tree to hold moisture, moderate soil temperature extremes, and reduce grass and weed competition. Common mulches include composted wood chips, shredded bark, leaf litter or pine straw. A two inch deep layer is ideal. More than two inches may cause a problem with oxygen and excessive moisture levels. Piling mulch against the trunk of a tree may cause decay of the living bark and elicit girdling root growth, which hinders the tree’s vascular system.
Fertilizing is not recommended until two years after planting. When trees are spaded and transplanted, a large percentage of the root system is removed. Because the new tree’s root system is limited, fertilizer salts in the root zone can lead to increased water stress and the burning or scorching of foliage. Fertilizer should be avoided in the first two years unless it is designed for transplant shock recovery, such as root stimulator or mycorrhizal fungi products.