Tree Care


This is your planning section, with tips and resources on how to execute good practices in order to be successful.  


a.  decide when to plant

b.  purchase healthy tree stock

c.  get site ready (according to tree requirements)

d.  have an adequate water supply available for tree planting and tree maintenance

e.  be sure to water regularly and well; control weeds; monitor for pests and disease

PLANTING - Simple Steps to Consider:    

1.  WHERE will you be planting?  Let the planting location guide you on the type of plants/trees to choose, rather than forcing plants/trees to work in a location.   Take a look at the soil and growing conditions in your selected location - is there space for a full sized plant/tree; is the exposure South/West? Is it hot and dry, shady and moist?  What about access to water to water them? How is the drainage in the location - does rain sit in low spots after a shower or does all the water run away from your location?  

2.  WHY are you planting?  Are you creating a shelterbelt?  Are you beautifying your yard? Is it to create privacy? The purpose of the planting will help you determine appropriate plants/trees to choose.

Guideline for the amount of space a tree needs:

  • Consult with your retailer on appropriate spacing for trees, but here are some guidelines to help your planning:
  • Tree Spacing Table (AB Shelterbelt)
    You will also want to consider closeness to buildings, side yards, driveways, and walkways so that growing tree limbs have room to spread and not interfere with these areas.  As well, there are minimum setbacks from underground utility lines (gas, power, telephone/cable lines) that need to be considered.  Contact the County Planning & Development Authority for further details. 

There are some great resources for selecting trees:  

Check out the What Am I? page as it outlines some of the better varieties of trees for our region and covers good shelterbelt tree options.

When should you plant?  This depends on the type of tree.  In the spring once frost is out of ground or in the fall before freezing is ideal for planting most trees.  It is best to check with the tree supplier/nursery for appropriate planting times for trees you have purchased.  Once you have your trees, you will want to plant them as soon as possible.  If you can't plant immediately, keep them in a cool dark place (ie. cellar, shed) and keep them moist.  


Preparing the spot.  Remove grass, weeds, and ground cover/turf within a 50 cm radius of where you will be planting.  To reduce compaction, cultivate/rotovate the area prior to planting in order to give the tree roots a better chance to develop.  If possible, add a good quality soil around the roots.  Water immediately and continue watering on a regular basis for at least the first season.

Species safe to plant near your house
Tree Planting Guide
How to Plant A Tree
Ten Commandments of Tree Planting
Tree Planting Do's and Dont's
How to Plant a Shelterbelt
Shelterbelts in Alberta
Trees to Avoid Planting (info based on Wisconsin/US Midwest, but still applicable)
Safely Managing Trees Around Power Lines (from SaskPower)
Planting Near Power Line(from BC Hydro)
New Tree Planting
Right Tree in the Right Place



Now that the perfect tree is in the perfect spot, make sure it has the proper care to thrive and grow!

Check out the TREE TROUBLE-SHOOTING GUIDE for starters!


Tree Care Videos

See the following videos from Rob Spencer & Toso Bozic about tree care.  To see more of these video see Rob's Website


Part 1: What's Wrong with My Trees - DiagnosticsClick Here

Part 2: Whats Wrong with My Trees - DiseasesClick Here

Part 3: What's Wrong with My Trees - Insect Pests.  Click Here

Part 4: What's Wrong with My Trees - Physiological Issues. Click Here

Part 5: What's Wrong with My Trees - Fall Winter Care.  Click Here

Part 6: What's Wrong with My Trees - Spring and Summer.  Click Here



Did you know that fertilizing isn't necessary for shelterbelts? However, you will want to look at your options for your backyard/ornamental trees.  Here are some articles:

What fertilizer do you recommend for established trees?
How to fertilize a new tree


Staking is not practiced in shelterbelts.  For ornamental trees you may want to stake trees taller than 1 meter, but make sure the stake ties don't cause damage to the tree bark. You should be able to remove the stakes after two or three years.


Saskatoon Urban Forest (pg 4 Watering)
YardSmart - Watering Trees & Shrubs
Water Management for Trees
Watering to prevent Browning of Conifer Needles
Fall and Winter Watering

Here are a few rules of thumb for watering properly:

Newly Planted Trees First 2 Years  After First 2 Years How Much Water & When?
Water immediately after you plant a tree.  Soak it two to four hours twice a week for the first 2-3 months and weekly thereafter for the first year.  During the first couple of years, a newly planted tree is expending a lot of energy to establish its roots.  Especially during the first few summers of a trees life it will have a hard time dealing with the weather - make it easier by watering regularly and covering soil with wood chip mulch.  Deep watering weekly (keeping soil moist to a depth that includes all the roots) is a good idea. Roots should be established well enough to withstand a wider range of water conditions on its own. A little water during a longer drought period may be a good idea.

Over-watering is also a problem for the tree.  Keep the soil damp but not soggy - get your fingers dirty by feeling the soil!  Mulching will keep your moisture retained in the soil.  Check soil moisture by sticking a garden trowel into the soil about 2" and move it back and forth to make a trench - if this soil is moist to the touch, it is good.



Landscape Fabric or Not?

Insects, leaf spots, curling leaves, holes in trunk, bark stripping; gnaw marks etc.


The Tree Care Guide
Weed Management in Tree Nurseries
Tree & Shrub Guides: University of Saskatchewan GardenLine
Common Tree Care Tips
Fall Checklist
Winter Tree Survival

City of Saskatoon Urban Forest Guide



Annual pruning should be started when trees are young so they can be trained to the desired shape.

Light pruning to remove dead wood can be done anytime. Pruning at specific times of the year will give you different results.  Always check the individual species for preferences.

WINTER PRUNING is most common and results in a burst of new spring growth.  Generally, you will wait until the coldest part of winter has passed.

SUMMER PRUNING is done to direct growth of a tree or slow down its growth.  It is done generally after seasonal growth is complete.

 is based on the type of tree.  For those trees that bloom in the spring, prune when the flowers fade.  For those that bloom in mid-late summer, prune in winter or early spring

DECIDUOUS TREES are pruned while dormant - late fall or early spring.  Maples and birch are exceptions - they will bleed unless pruned when leaves are fully grown.  When pruning, you will want to remove the dead/damaged/diseased/weak/thin/rubbing branches.  Remove water sprouts from the trunk and suckers from the trunk base.  Thin the young branches to maintain the desired crown shape and size.

CONIFEROUS TREES are pruned in order to direct new growth and increase density.  You generally don't remove full branches as this can create big gaps.  Spruce and fir must be pruned in late spring after the new growth has started but isn't yet matured.  New pine buds should be pinched back in early June when the new growth (candle) has reached full length.


When Should I prune my trees?
Tree Pruning Fact Sheet
Pruning in Alberta book ordering info
Pruning Tips
Don't Top Trees

Agriculture Canada - Let's Talk about Pruning Trees

How to Prune Coniferous Trees

ELM TREES - In order to stop the spread of Dutch Elm Disease you are only allowed to prune Elms from October to March each year.  Special rules to follow can be found online here

1.  Begin at the top and work your way down

2.  Use the 1/3 and 1/4 Rules:

  • Never remove more than 1/4 of a tree's crown in a season
  • Main side branches should be at least 1/3 smaller than diameter of the trunk
  • For most deciduous (broadleaf) trees, don't prune up from the bottom more than 1/3 of the tree's total height
  • When possible, keep side branches that form angles that are 1/3 off vertical with the trunk = meaning they are at 10 or 2 o'clock if you consider the trunk to be 12 o'clock

3.  When shortening a branch, make the cut at a lateral bud or another later branch.  Choose buds that will grow a branch in the desired direction (normally outward).  The cut should be at a slight angle 1/4 inch beyond the bud. Some samples below:



If removing a branch, cut just outside the branch collar (the swollen area at the branch base) and do not make flush cuts or leave stubs.  

Sources of above information:  Tree Canada   and  Arbor Day Foundation 



There are some common mistakes that even the most experienced grower can make.

1.  Planting a favourite or "I really want that" tree/plant in the hopes it will work in that one available spot.  Going through the Simple Planting Steps from the top of this page will help reduce your losses.

2.  Well, it rained last week so I don't need to water those trees/plants.  This is NOT a good strategy! Trees need to be watered regularly for the first two years of being planted.  See watering chart under Tree Care

3.  Pruning trees in the Fall seems like a good idea, but since decay fungi spreads their spores profusely in the fall and healing of wounds seems to be slower on fall cuts it is best to leave the pruning until late winter.  Proper pruning the rest of the year is important - Don't Top Trees

4. Practicing Zero Weed Control is not a good strategy- weeding will give your trees/plants the nutrients, light and water to start growth rather than compete with tall growing vegetation for the same resources.

5.  Beating up your trees with the lawnmower and weed whacker is a sure way to damage/destroy a tree. 

6.  Pretty Packaging and lots of Facebook likes doesn't make it a good product.  Don't apply product (store bought or home-mixed) without research.  You need to consider if it might harm the trees, dessicate points of contact; perhaps it may not make any impact and it might change the look of the tree.   Do your research - choose the right product for the right pest. And just as important: Apply at the right time at the right rate.  Check with your local AG Fieldman at the County office for information on current herbicide registrations that may be available.

7.  Spread that sidewalk de-icer freely...unless you would like your trees to actually grow.  Here is an article on how to Minimize De-Icing Salt Injury to Trees. 

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