We know that trees are incredible assets in our world. The benefits they offer are innumerable when they are kept in a healthy condition. Conducting adequate tree maintenance is essential in sustaining that health and vitality for all trees.

The basics of tree care include watering, pruning, and ensuring adequate nutrients are reaching the trees’ root system. The way that you carry out these tasks, however, can vary depending on the growth stage a tree is in. Let’s go over some tree maintenance tips for both young and mature trees.

Young Trees


Regular watering is essential for young trees as it helps develop a strong root system. A well-established root system is very important for the success of the tree in the future. The soil should be kept slightly damp, but completely soaked or pooling water around the base of the tree (too much water can drown out the roots).  A good rule of thumb is to water young trees 4-6 inches below the soil surface, at least once per week.


In urban areas, such as Toronto, trees often need additional nutrients than what they can get naturally – especially during vulnerable growth stages. Soil compaction and space limitations both contribute to nutrient deficiencies in trees growing in urban areas. Soil amendments can be done, though, to ensure good nutrients reach the roots. You can use an air spade to add organic material to the soil around young trees and improve aeration, water retention, and drainage.

It is also important to keep the weeds at bay. Weeds and other vegetation compete with the tree’s roots for both water and nutrients in the soil. One easy, effective, and environmentally friendly way to prevent weeds from growing is to add mulch around the base of a young tree. Mulch also provides insulation for the roots in the cold winter months.


Pruning saplings and young trees is an important part of caring for young trees. However, because of the vulnerability of young trees, pruning should only be done by experienced professionals.

Newly planted trees should only be pruned to remove diseased or damaged branches, specifically in the first couple years.  Proper pruning techniques are essential to protect the structural integrity of a tree and encourage strong, healthy growth. Improper pruning can compromise a sapling’s ability to grow a balanced branch scaffold.

Mature Trees

Mature trees are incredible assets. They offer shade, protection from the wind, and add immeasurable beauty to our landscapes. They require regular care, just as young trees do, to ensure their many benefits remain. While the same basic care principles apply to both young and old, mature trees require a slightly different approach.


Mature trees already have well established root systems, so their watering needs are much different than that of saplings. They only really need to be watered once per month if there has not been adequate rainfall in the area.


Mature trees often face nutrient deficiency issues related to soil compaction. Constant traffic over the critical root zone can easily compact the soil and prevent essential nutrients from reaching the roots. Aeration, fertilizers, and bio-stimulants offer solutions to this problem.

Aeration promotes the absorption of nutrients and is best done in spring or fall. It works by creating air pockets, known as macropores, in the soil to allow nutrients (and water) to reach the roots more easily.

Bio-stimulants and fertilizer both provide additional nutrients for the roots to absorb. They are added to the soil covering the critical root zone of a mature tree to encourage uptake of essential nutrition and promote healthy growth. Bio-stimulants are slightly different from fertilizer, as fertilizer tends to have higher nitrogen content. High levels of nitrogen can be a shock to mature trees, which makes bio-stimulants a gentler option.


Mature trees also required pruning to maintain health. Pruning should be implemented to remove diseased, damaged, and dead branches – just the same as young trees. However, mature trees may also benefit from corrective trimming, such as weight reduction pruning.

Other things to consider:

Young trees are particularly susceptible when exposed to the elements. Maple and poplar trees, for example, often experience sunscald in the winter months. Evergreens more often suffer from winter drying and damage from salt exposure. Things like tree wrap or burlap can be installed to protect young trees from winter damage.

Disease and pest management is also important for young and mature trees alike. From wood boring insects to fungal and bacterial infections, trees face a wide variety of threats to their health. Preventative measures can, and should, be taken to properly mitigate and treat disease. For example, tree injections are an effective way to prevent insect infestations and fungal infections. You can think of them kind of like vaccines for trees. Tree injections are incredibly efficient at getting the critical treatment to all parts of the tree because they are injected directly into the inner layer of the tree that is responsible for carrying essential nutrients throughout.

Staking is another maintenance task that may be considered for young trees. A newly planted tree can be staked if there is reason to believe it needs protection against damage in high-traffic areas (i.e. areas where lawn-mowers or weed trimmers are being used), or if they are having a difficult time establishing a strong root system (i.e. when a tree is planted on a hill side). If you choose to stake a newly planted tree, staking should be removed after the first year of growth to prevent permanent damage to the tree.

A similar intervention to staking for mature trees is the installation of cabling and bracing systems. When the structural integrity of a tree becomes compromised (but not so much as to require complete removal), a tree may benefit from the reinforced stability of a cabling and bracing system.

The Bottom Line

Tree maintenance is essential for all trees from saplings all the way to old trees. You should be able to enjoy all the benefits trees offer for many years to come, so long as you ensure the basic needs of watering, pruning, and nutrition are being met.

If you need help with tree maintenance in Toronto, be sure to contact Local Arborist today! Our team of certified arborists are experts at tree maintenance. We offer a wide variety of tree care services to fit your needs.