Alaska Tree and Shrub Maintenance Guide
1. MAINTAIN PROPER SOIL MOISTURE
Alaska’s climate can be demanding on newly planted landscapes. The durability and beauty of these plants warrants protecting them from the rigors of our extreme weather, until they are fully established. First, the root systems must reestablish themselves in their new location. During this process, the soil must not be allowed to dry out, as root damage or plant death could occur. Overly saturated soil is just as detrimental to root development, so do not water too often. Deep watering 2 times per week should be adequate during the dry season (spring), and supplemental watering during the late summer and fall may be necessary.
Tip: On trees with watering berms, fill the berm to the top 2 times per week. Evergreens (Spruce) need to be deep watered in the fall before the ground freezes. Evergreens, especially trees, do use some stored water during the winter, so as soon as the ground thaws in the spring, water deeply and check the soil moisture often.
Note: Do not rely on rain to provide deep watering; continue to irrigate trees and shrubs through the rainy season (fall).
2. ROUTINE MAINTENANCE
Adequate fertilizing was done at the time of planting for the first season, so no additional fertilizer should be added. In Alaska, trees and shrubs should be fertilized in the spring or early summer only. Fertilizer with a ratio of 8/32/16 has proven best.
Tip: If you fertilize at the end of the spring clean-up process you will be done for the season! Fertilize trees and shrubs growing in beds by spreading it around the “drip line.” In lawns, use fertilizer spikes according to the label.
Spring cleanup is the best time to perform major pruning on most deciduous plants (loose their leaves in the winter), except Lilacs. For this species, wait until their blooming period is over before removing live wood. Broken or dead branches may be removed at any time. Pruning techniques would fill a book and are therefore too complex to cover here.
Tip: Purchase a pruning guide, and follow its suggestions to obtain the proper shape and methods for specific species.