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Help Your Trees Age Gracefully

I recently had the pleasure of meeting with Kevin Sorrow, the Covington City Arborist and the Asst. Public Works Director: Water Resources. He manages the trees that are on all city property. He also assists with the Land Application. In the late 1970s, the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) mandated wastewater improvements through the Federal Clean Water Act. The Upper Ocmulgee River basin was targeted because of the nutrient loading affecting Jackson Lake. The primary nutrients of concern were nitrogen and phosphorous, each contributing to excessive lake algae. In response to these concerns, the City of Covington and the Newton County Water & Sewerage Authority considered the benefits of nutrient removal by irrigating their treated wastewater over 1,200 acres of planted trees.

I have been getting multiple questions about how to care for older mature trees. Kevin and I had a discussion about older tree care and some best practices when preserving older trees.

WATER- The City of Covington was established in 1821 and is home to many old shade trees. Large mature oak trees can use 50-200 gallons of water per day. To increase the ability of your older shade tree to live much longer and reduce the stress, watering it in times of drought is essential. When there hasn’t been a sufficient rainfall in a couple of weeks, consider watering your tree. You can turn the water hose on at a trickle and allow it to go for 20 mins and then move it to the other side of the tree. Ensure it is a slow deep water, and your tree will be set until the next rainfall.

Watering Trees | Sprinkler Warehouse

Another way to ensure your tree has the proper amount of water is to mulch underneath the drip line of the tree. The dripline is the area directly located under the outer circumference of the tree branches. Mulching holds the moisture within the roots and the soil. This limits the amount of other plants to compete with the tree for nutrients and water.

PROTECTION- Do not disturb the bark of the roots. Just underneath the outer bark is a layer of cambium. This layer is the undifferentiated cells that is where growth begins. “It annually produces new bark and new wood in response to hormones that pass down through the phloem with food from the leaves.” (Anatomy of a tree) The roots are what anchors the tree and protecting them is crucial to the longevity of the tree. Don’t cut any surface roots of dig underneath the tree. It is also a best practice to not tie anything to the tree or hang swings or ropes form the limbs. This can damage the bark and girdle the tree.

Just exactly what color is the cambium anyway? - General Fruit Growing -  Growing Fruit
The cambium layer is just beneath the bark.

Parasite/ Pest/ Disease Prevention-

Three things are required for a disease to develop:
• a pathogen (the disease-causing agent)
• a plant susceptibility to that particular pathogen
• an environment suitable for disease development
Plants vary in susceptibility to pathogens. Many disease-prevention programs focus on the use of pathogen-resistant plant varieties.
Diseases can be classified into two broad categories:
• Infectious: transmittable diseases caused by microscopic living agents
• Non-infectious: non-transmittable diseases that are inherited or the result of non-living agents
Examples of infectious agents include fungi, protozoa, viruses, and bacteria. Non-infectious diseases, which account for the majority of
plant problems in urban areas, can be caused by such factors as compacted soil, nutrient deficiencies, temperature extremes, vandalism, pollutants, and fluctuations in moisture. Non-infectious disorders often produce symptoms similar to those caused by infectious diseases;
therefore, it is essential to distinguish between the two to determine proper treatment options. (Insect and Disease Problems 2011)


Certified Arborist– A certified arborist is a highly trained tree professional. Unlike regular tree care services, arborists have experience and are trained to diagnose and create a tree management plan. Go to https://www.treesaregood.org/ for more information about certified arborists and general tree care. They can assist with structural pruning for your older trees to increase their longevity. Kevin Sorrow the city of Covington Arborist, has utilized the help of other arborists in the area to salvage and manage the magnolias on the city square. They have increased the stability be utilizing braces and cables for the trees to protect against high winds and storms. This is a option when you want to save a certain old tree in your yard.

New Homes in Magnolia Park | Covington, GA | Express

An arborist can help you with the following tree care services:

  • Tree Removal: A service to remove a tree that has died, become infested with insects or pests, in some way poses a threat to the property, or is simply no longer needed.
  • Tree Pruning: removing branches or stems to benefit the health, growth, and natural form of a tree.
  • Emergency Tree Care: 24-hour service to respond to trees that have become hazardous due to storms or other hazardous situations.
  • Tree Planting: Knowing where, when, and how to plant a tree is imperative to its success. A certified arborist can help you determine which tree is best for your property and help you plant it. This will help ensure a long, healthy life for the tree.
  • Tree Health: A certified arborist can diagnose tree disease or pest problems and make appropriate recommendations for its treatment.

Anatomy of a tree. (n.d.). Retrieved October 09, 2020, from https://www.fs.usda.gov/learn/trees/anatomy-of-tree

Insect and Disease Problems. (2011). Retrieved October 12, 2020, from https://www.treesaregood.org/portals/0/docs/treecare/InsectAndDisease.pdf