Sustainable Saratoga’s Urban Forestry Project released the following guidelines for tree hosts that received trees as part of our Tree Toga plantings on April 26. We thought we would share these tree care tips with everyone. For questions on care, please contact

Mulch your new tree

We would strongly encourage you to mulch your new trees soon. Mulch retains moisture and keeps weed growth down. We recommend wood chip mulch (not the city compost).

The 3-3-3 Rule for proper mulching:

  • keep mulch at least 3 inches away from the trunk;
  • mulch 3 inches deep;
  • spread mulch in a circle with a 3-foot radius.

Never pile up mulch around the trunk.

Although you will see “mulch volcanos” all around town, they are bad horticultural practice. They breed fungi and encourage unhealthy surface root growth. “Mulch volcanos” can kill trees.

Water: the most critical ingredient

Your new tree is expending a lot of energy trying to get its roots established during its early years. Water is key to helping your young tree survive and thrive. If nature doesn’t provide about an inch of rain each week, then supplementary watering is necessary.

Initially water your tree every two to three days to prevent the roots from drying out. As this first growing season progresses, continue watering twice a week unless there has been substantial rainfall. Give your tree about 5 gallons of water each time. The goal is to get water down into the soil to encourage root growth.

We had some damp weather after Arbor Day, but now we have had no significant rain since Friday.

Remove the stake

Staking should not be required unless your tree is in a high wind location. In fact, staking over time weakens trees because it does not allow them to build strength as they respond to stress.

If you have not already done so, carefully snip any bindings that hold your tree to a stake and gently pull the stake out of the ground and away from the tree.

Protect the young bark from injuries.

Cuts and gashes from lawn mowers and weed whackers kill many trees. The 3-foot mulch pit helps to prevent accidental injury. If someone other than you mows your lawn, train them not to injure your new tree (or any of your trees) with their equipment. You might consider a low fence to keep lawn mowers (and even dogs) away from your tree.