Evergreen Tree Care and Diseases
Detecting and Preventing Evergreen Diseases
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Learning the basics of evergreen tree care can yield a bounty of useful products for your homestead. In addition to shade, wind insulation, and oxygen production, various evergreens can yield nuts, edible buds, as well as inner bark and needles for tea.
Evergreen diseases are few and not particularly widespread, making evergreen tree care an easy and rewarding way to populate your property with plants that give fresh color all year round. Evergreen tree care can encompass not only conifers and hollies, but also live oaks, cypress, and sequoias.
Evergreens include all of these trees as well as any other plant that is green all year round, such as honeysuckle vine and even club mosses. Because there is such a wide variety of evergreens that come from all over the world, care is best expressed in wide and general terms. For your specific tree, it is best to look up special instructions for that variety as well as any evergreen diseases that may be possible.
Edible Benefits of Evergreens
Pine trees contain edible seeds, known as pine nuts, within their cones. These seeds are delicious raw or roasted and are full of important vitamins and minerals. Inner bark is nutritious, but requires preparation and cooking to consume and it is also very harmful to the tree. Therefore, inner bark should only be harvested in an emergency.
Pine needles, on the other hand, are plentiful and do not harm the tree when harvested. They make a nutritious tea full of vitamin C. The longer the tea is heated, the more vitamin C is lost, so shorter cooking times are best. Young male pine cones, the smaller ones seen on the tips of branches, can be harvested and prepared by baking or boiling until tender. In the spring, pollen can be shaken from the male cones and stored to use as a bright yellow, nutritious flour. The pollen from pine trees is very high in protein.
No matter what variety of evergreen tree you are planting, there are a few universal tips to follow. First, avoid salt in the soil. If you are planting along a property line facing a road, for instance, winter road salting runoff may cause problems with your evergreens.
Most evergreens prefer a rich soil that is slightly acidic. Spring is a good time to plant evergreens, and planting can continue well into springtime. Fall is also a good time to plant, leaving six to eight weeks before first frost as the deadline for getting them into the ground. Before planting your tree, water it in the pot and give it at least half an hour to get a good drink and soak. Dig a hole slightly deeper than the depth of the pot and fill the bottom with a mound of good, loose, slightly acidic soil. Unpot the tree and spread the roots gently. Place on top of the soil in the hole and fill the hole with your remaining prepared soil. Water well and deeply.
Care is as easy as providing regular water and plenty of sunshine. If you do wish to fertilize your evergreen trees, use a basic, balanced tree formula and sprinkle on top of the soil around the trunk. As you water, the nutrients will seep into the ground slowly.
If pruning should be necessary, get out your pruning shears in early spring before new growth has emerged. This is especially important if dramatic cuts are being made, as the new spring growth will help to cover the cuts. Midsummer is another good time to prune your evergreen trees.
Fully grown trees and shrubs are hardy in winter conditions, but you can reduce frost damage and breakage from heavy snow with a few techniques. Use fallen or pruned pine boughs laid on the soil around seedlings’ roots to help insulate naturally. Small trees and shrubs can be wrapped with burlap or string to support the branches in winter, preventing heavy snows from snapping off branches. If you notice browning of the needles on your trees, known as leaf burn, it is especially important to get the best mulch around the base of the tree to protect the roots from freezing.
Disease and Pest Control
While evergreen trees can fall victim to a variety of rusts, cankers, and blights, usually a healthy tree with good ventilation and watering practices will avoid problems.
There are a few pests who especially love evergreens, as well, among them the bark beetle. This pest has both eastern and western varieties within North America, and is the most potentially devastating evergreen pest. It produces egg colonies beneath the bark of the tree, eventually disrupting the flow of sap and killing the tree. If found in a tree, the tree must be destroyed completely and the remains burned.
For seedling trees, there is the pale weevil which breeds in root systems and stumps. The adult weevil eats the bark of the sapling and this destroys the tree. These are the most common and widespread pests that can affect evergreen trees.
As with preventing other diseases, good plant spacing, hygiene, good ventilation, and good insulation in winter can improve the chances of avoiding these pests. Protecting trees from deer can be a temporary concern for saplings. If needed, wrap your trees in burlap or netting to encourage deer to forage elsewhere.
Whether you grow them for the year-round green color or the variety of edible products they produce, evergreen trees are an excellent choice to populate your property, providing shade and wind insulation for your home while being resistant to most diseases and pests. They require little maintenance beyond occasional watering and a good chance at sunlight, and can make the most of naturally acidic soil. You can eat the seeds, roast the young male pine cones, and serve a refreshing tea from the needles.
Planting seedlings is simple and with a little routine pruning your evergreen trees can grace your homestead for years to come. Use the pruned pine boughs in winter to insulate your tender garden perennials and young plants. Evergreen trees are givers of many gifts, and a true joy to grow at home.
Do you have any other evergreen tree care tips you would like to add? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
Originally published in Countryside March/April 2020 and regularly vetted for accuracy.