Protecting Trees

Protect your tree’s health by avoiding damage to the tree's roots, trunk or crown. Quite often, people are unwittingly causing damage to a tree by everyday behaviors and habits. Many of us don’t realize that trees need care and attention throughout their lifespan.

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Protect the roots from:

  • Compacting equipment, vehicles, material storage and foot traffic.

  • Trenching for utilities or irrigation installation and repair.

  • Changing soil grade by cutting or filling

  • Grading, tearing or grubbing the surrounding soil.

  • Contamination by runoff containing petroleum products and harsh chemicals from driveways, sidewalks and patios.

  • Impervious parking lots, driveways and walkways that increase soil compaction and reduce permeability.

  • A tree’s most important roots lie directly under the tree’s canopy, the critical root zone. Be sure to preserve this area as much as possible.

Protect the trunk, limbs and branches from:

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  • Vehicles and heavy equipment that tear bark and break limbs and branches.

  • Lawn mowers and weed trimmers that damage the protective bark.

  • Nails, screws, staples or spikes that hold up signs and notices.

  • Chains, ropes or wires that secure objects to the trunk and limbs.

  • Fire or excessive heat that breaks down the protective bark layer.

Protect Your Tree from Wildlife, Pets, Insect Pests and Diseases

  • Wildlife browsing and antler rub

  • Digging and chewing pets

  • Insect pests and diseases that attack weak, unhealthy and vulnerable trees

Tree Protection Tips:

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  • Mulch rings around tree trunks have multiple protective benefits:

  • Mulch keeps soil temperatures cool; roots prefer cool, constant temperatures.

  • Mulch keeps weeds and grass from competing with the tree’s roots for water and nutrients

  • Mulch keeps the grass that requires damaging mowing or trimming from growing next to the trunk.

  • Use wire caging/fencing to keep mowers, weed trimmers, pets and wildlife at bay.

  • Wrap the trunks of young and thin-barked trees late in the summer before rut. Remember to remove the wraps after the chance of damage from antler rub; tree trunks need air and sunlight, too!

  • Fence off the critical root zone under the tree canopy during construction to protect the entire tree from construction activity and potential damage.

  • The area under the tree canopy is not meant for storage. Trees cannot thrive with compacted root zones.

  • If roots must be disturbed, be sure to keep the area damaged to a minimum and keep the rest of the roots well watered.

  • Not all insects are pests; some are beneficial! Be sure to identify an insect before addressing the issue. A healthy tree can fend off most pests.

  • A tree that is watered regularly is better able to protect itself and is more resilient.

  • Plant trees where they will not interfere with infrastructure or become an obstruction at full size.

  • Protect the tree from the spread of disease or further damage. Remove dead, damaged and diseased limbs and branches any time of year.

  • Disinfect the pruning tools between cuts of diseased branches to keep the disease from spreading.

  • If you can’t identify the insect or the disease, consult the experts! Contact the Missoula County Extension and Weed District or the Missoula Urban Forestry Division.

  • Observe and monitor your trees regularly for early detection, so any potential issues that may affect overall tree health and vitality can be addressed.