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Parks and Recreation

Contact Information
Parks & Recreation Department
City Services Center (CSC)
500 15th Avenue SW
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52404
Phone: 319-286-5566, option 2
Fax: 319-540-8843


Mon - Fri, 7:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Department Contacts
Principles of Pruning: When and Why

Principles of Pruning: Included bark

Principles of Pruning: Making a good cut

General Tree Care

Tree care is an investment in your home and environment. Here are some useful tips to help your tree perform to the best of its abilities and become a valuable asset to your landscape.

1) Cold Stress-Extreme temperatures can cause the bark of trees to crack and spread, allowing an opportunity for disease and insect infestation. It is advisable to wrap the bark of a young tree for the first few winters with one of a number of commercial products. This is mainly for thin bark trees and should only be done the first few winters. The tree will need to adapt to the temperature extremes in the long term.

2) Pruning-Winter is an ideal time to prune trees. However, don’t prune trees in the late summer/early fall, it can promote new growth that can be damaged by cold temperatures. Wait until the weather is cool enough that you are sure the tree is dormant. Trim Oak and American Elm trees only in fall/winter to limit the spread of disease. For new trees, only prune off dead and broken limbs, then wait at least a year to perform any light, structural pruning. Once a tree matures, the timing and type of pruning is determined by the species and the needs of the property. Typically, trees only need to be pruned every 5 years.

3) Mulch- Applying a 4-6 inch layer of wood chip mulch is the single best thing you can do for your trees. It protects them from lawnmower damage, insulates the ground, increases organic matter in the soil, regulates temperature, and improves water infiltration for the roots. Leaf mulch is also beneficial. Gather all of the fallen leaves and run them over several times with a lawn mower, making sure they are cut finely. This is a good, economical way to help not only trees, but other plants as well.

4) Ground Breaks-If you have a young tree in a position to get the brunt of snow drifts or strong winds, make a wind break. This may be done by simply attaching a length of burlap between two posts.

5) Watering:  Trees need long periods of slow watering. Water Sprinklers and sudden downpours are not effective. At least one inch of rain over a long period per week is ideal. You can substitute this if there has been no significant rain for a week by applying 10-15 gallons of water with a hydration bag, or five gallon bucket. You can also leave a garden hose at the base of the tree for an hour or two on a very light trickle. Watering is good for old trees as well as new trees. You can water from the time the ground thaws out until it freezes. It is acceptable for soil to become dry between each watering. Newly planted trees should receive 15-20 gallons of water every seven to ten days.

6) Salt-Using salt for snow and ice removal on your property can have devastating effects on your trees. When the snow or ice melts it carries the salt into the water, which ends up on your tree roots.

7) Snow and Ice-If clinging on a young tree these can be a problem. Gently brush away excess snow, be careful, pulling ice may damage bark. Use care and only brush off loose material. Any bent limbs should straighten up in the spring. Trees that are adversely affected yearly may need to be staked or wired together each winter. Do not leave stakes or wires on throughout the year.

8) Stakes/guy wires-Most young trees don't need to remain staked. Movement is important for the tree to gain taper and strength. Guy wires and stakes should be removed after a year. Leaving them on longer can damage the tree, potentially killing it.

9) Aerate-Aerate the root zone around trees, and remove any grass growing close to the tree base. Grass takes nutrients needed by the tree.

10) Spray-Spray an anti-desiccant on smaller evergreens, it should help lessen the damage of winds and sun over the winter.

A tree is not a short term investment. If done right, that young tree will add value to your home, cut heating and cooling costs, provide food/shelter for birds or animals and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the environment.

Tree Watering in the City Right-of-Way:
  1. Newly planted trees should receive 15-20 gallons of water every seven to ten days unless it rains more than an inch.
  2. It is acceptable for soil to become dry between each watering.
  3. A contractor is responsible for watering trees every seven to ten days for two years after planting.
  4. If any trees fail during that time, the contractor must replace them.
  5. The City is working on ways to help reduce watering times during dry and hot conditions. We hope to implement new watering initiatives in the next few weeks.
If residents want to water right-of-way trees, we suggest they provide new trees with 15-20 gallons of water every seven to ten days while it is dry. It is better to water all at once than just a little at a time. It is acceptable for the soil to become dry between each watering. Trees do not need to be watered if it rains more than an inch during the week.
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