Spring Tree Care Tips for the Denver Front Range

Spring officially begins in March but here in the Denver Front Range region, we know that spring doesn’t really arrive until much later! Still, March and April are a good time to plan ahead for your spring tree care to ensure you’ll have healthy trees all year round.

Here are our tips for taking care of your trees in spring and preparing them for the long summer ahead.

A red rake leans against a tree during spring clean up in Colorado.

Spring Cleaning & Check-Ups

Clean up any leftover debris from last fall, including:

  • Mummified fruit and fallen leaves, which might be harboring insect pests or pathogens
  • Fallen tree limbs that can become summer wildfire fuel

The warm spring weather that causes flowers and leaves to burst forth also signals to overwintering insects that it’s time to emerge and start eating! Splashing water and feeding insects will also transfer destructive fungi and bacteria to tender foliage, so it’s important to remove the source of these.

And when you spring-clean your garden, the benefits are two-fold:

  • A fresh, tidy garden for spring enjoyment now, and
  • A garden that will be healthy and vigorous through summer and into fall, with fewer tasks for you

Check your trees for signs of winter damage, such as:

  • split or cracked bark (freezing temperatures can make trees brittle and can crack bark)
  • broken or hanging branches
  • signs of road salt damage, such as “burned” evergreen leaves
  • evidence of rodent damage, including torn and chewed bark and roots

Check whether your trees or shrubs need fertilization. If any plants showed signs of nutrient deficiencies last year, spring is an excellent time for deep root fertilization. The actively growing trees and shrubs will appreciate the extra nutrition as they make leaves, fruit, and flowers.

Frass from an Ips beetle attack appears on a Ponderosa tree's limb.

Treat Bark Beetles Now

To protect your healthy trees against infestation from Mountain Pine Beetles, schedule now for spring and summer spraying. This is also the time to schedule treatments for Ips beetles, a similar bark beetle that attacks and kills pines and spruce trees.

There is no cure or treatment for either of these destructive pests, so we always recommend preventive care to protect your trees. If you’re uncertain about the health of your trees or if you’re seeing bark beetle damage, call us for an evaluation. We’ll check your trees and advise you on what you need to do to limit damage and protect healthy trees.

Wait for Frost to Pass Before Planting Young Trees and Shrubs

The first stretch of balmy spring weather makes everyone think that we’ve banished winter for another year. But our high-elevation springs are unpredictable, and temperatures can drop suddenly and dramatically.

Young trees have thin bark and are more sensitive to extreme cold (and heat) than established trees. If you didn’t plant new trees last fall you can plant them this spring but wait until the frost has passed.

The same is true for young shrubs and perennials: they’ll establish themselves more quickly with mild spring weather and regular water, and by next spring they’ll be ready for the rollercoaster of Colorado’s spring weather.

Damage from voles on a young plant in Evergreen, Colorado.

Protecting your trees from animal damage is an important part of tree care.

Protect Your Tasty Plants from Animal Browsing

You may not like the look of netting, fencing, or corrugated pipes around your trees and shrubs, but protecting your garden investments is vital if you have hungry, foraging animals hanging around. Rodents aren’t just a problem in winter, they work year-round and love tender spring growth as much as everyone else does.

You can take some comfort in knowing that simple measures such as cutting down tall grasses and weeds around your garden have multiple rewards, including:

  • Eliminating habitat and hiding places for gophers and voles
  • Removing launching points for ticks
  • Creating a fire break
  • Clearing sightlines for rodent predators such as hawks, owls, snakes, and foxes to spot their prey.

PRO TIP: While some people fear these wild predators, they’re an invaluable part of our ecosystem. We should help them do their job, which is eating rodents, snails, slugs, and many other insects and animals that we don’t want in our garden or in our house.

Morning frost covers blades of grass in the spring in Colorado.

Get Ready to Start Watering

Hot, dry weather is typical in the summer (the Front Range area around Evergreen has seen extreme drought conditions for several years now) and can be extremely stressful for young trees. Heat and water stress can damage trees both immediately and in their long-term health, making them more susceptible to pests and disease.

If you have one, check your irrigation system now for breaks or leaks. You’ll want your irrigation system to be ready right when your trees need extra water, to prevent water stress that can stress trees and damage their long-term health.

If you don’t have an irrigation system and water by hand, investing in a soil moisture meter is money well spent.

Overwatering your plants and trees can harm them as much as under watering them, and the symptoms of both can look very similar. To avoid stressing your trees or wasting precious water, use your soil moisture meter to check what’s going on underground.

Add Mulch Around Your Trees and Shrubs

If your organic mulch layer has thinned since you last applied it, now is the time to replenish it. A thick layer of mulch will:

  • Hold water in your soil longer
  • Smother weeds
  • Prevent soil compaction
  • Keep soil temperatures cooler during the summer and warmer during the winter
  • Keep your garden beds looking neat
  • Break down over time and enrich your soil

PRO TIP: If you don’t know where to get mulch, we’ve got it for you and if you’re local, it’s free!

Be Fire-Wise with Your Mulch

While we always encourage mulching, we’re also aware of the paradox of our advice to add flammable material in an area that’s at risk for wildfires. The benefits of mulch that we mentioned above are important for long-term tree and garden health, and the need for all of us to protect our homes from wildfire damage is immeasurable.

So what to do?

Instead of skipping the mulch, follow established guidelines for fire-resistant landscaping and “defensible space” around your home.

Colorado State University’s publications will give you realistic information and practical advice for creating and maintaining a garden that is beautiful and enjoyable AND designed to keep wildfires away from your house and other valuable structures.

It’s all about matching the right plants, materials, and maintenance to the right distances away from your house. (And yes, you can still mulch!)

If you have an established garden or if you’ve just planted your first fruit tree, we can help you make your garden healthy and safe.

We’re Ready to Help With Your Spring Garden

If you’d like to plant more trees but can’t do it alone, we can help. We’ve got the skills, experience, and equipment to plant large trees (up to 20 feet tall) in your garden.

And if you need to have trees pruned, we’re ready for that, too. We always encourage homeowners to learn about tree care, but it’s always less expensive to have professional pruning done than it is to hire us to try and repair pruning mistakes.

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