Planting a tree this summer? Here’s how to care for it long term

young tree Rob Huntley/Shutterstock.com

This article was originally published in the Early Summer 2017 issue of Cottage Life magazine.

Not many people know how much attention and care is needed for a tree to grow effectively. Like humans, every plant requires a unique amount of attention throughout its life. Refer to the list below to learn how to take care of your tree through its various life stages!


(under five)

Saplings need about 20 mm of water per week. Depending on the amount of rain you get at the cottage, Ma Nature may have this covered, but check the soil every few days (or at least every week end). It should always be damp but never have pooled water. Threats Getting trampled or eaten. By anyone or anything. Protect your sapling with a cage of chicken wire; mark its location with a flag.

Young tree

(by age five)

After the first three years of life, trees don’t usually need supplemental watering. But they may need “formative” pruning to fix small problems before they morph into big ones (example: crossing and rubbing branches that can damage portions of bark). Mulching every year or two with wood chips helps to keep the tree’s roots moist. Spread an even layer, two to four inches thick; don’t mound it volcano-style. Threats Wildlife browsing and human-inflicted injuries (example: a lawn mower knick).

Mature tree

(by 15 to 30)

Mature trees shouldn’t need much pruning, but it’ll be necessary if any branches are growing too close to your cottage windows or—yikes—power lines. Or if they’re a hazard: broken or about to break. Threats Any kind of stress, including stress from pests and disease. Older trees are tough, yes. But they’re also, well, old.

To celebrate Canada’s birthday, we’re challenging every cottager in Canada to plant a native tree. Find native tree sources for your cottage at Ontario’s greenleafchallenge.ca.

Share your story on social media: #GrowItForward.