The four basic categories of tree care are: protect, nurture, water and beautify.



This is a good place to begin tree care.  Before you can nurture, beautify or water – your tree must be safe.

  • Teach the community about the importance of picking up litter and leaving trees undisturbed.


The Emerald Ash Borer is an invasive insect that feeds on ash trees in Western New York.  Typical specimens are a bright, metallic, emerald green color overall, with the elytra usually appearing somewhat duller and slightly darker green.  The overall greenish coloration may also have variable amounts of brassy, coppery or reddish reflections, especially on the pronotum and ventral surfaces.  The EAB was first discovered in the United States in 2002 in southeastern Michigan and also in Windsor, Ontario.  This beetle infests and kills all species of native ash trees.  Adult beetles leave distinctive D-shaped exit holes in the outer bark of the branches and the trunk.  They may be present from late May through early September, but are most prevalent in June and July.  Signs of infection include dieback of the tree canopy and also yellowing and browning of leaves.


EAB larvae can reach 2 3/4 inches long.worm Photo: David Cappaert


Once infested, most trees will die within 2 to four years.  Since 2002, the EAB is responsible for the destruction of more than 50 million ash trees in the United States.

For more information, contact the Department of Environment and Conservation at 1-866-640-0652.

Once your tree is safe, it’s time to think about its health and environment.
  • Keep the area around your tree free of trash and animal waste.
  • Pull up weeds growing around your tree.  Weeds compete with the tree for vital nutrients and water.  Pull weeds throughout the season, but be especially careful to pull weeds in the early fall before they dry and their seeds spread.
  • Loosen the top two to three inches of soil to help water and air reach the tree’s roots.  Be careful not to damage the roots.
  • Add one inch of compost to the soil around your tree.  Be sure to keep raised soil away from the trunk of the tree.  You should be able to see the base of the tree where the trunk begins to spread into roots.


There are many benefits to proper mulching around trees. Mulch can help maintain soil moisture, control weed growth, improve soil aeration, increase soil fertility, and just looks good! However, the improper method of placing large amounts of mulch against the base of the tree, also known as volcano mulching, can do serious harm to your tree, causing undue stress, root suckers and basal decay.


  • Check the depth of mulch when applying mulch to prevent the buildup of old matted layers.
  • Do not put more than 2 to 4 inches of mulch below a tree, spread out wide beneath the canopy.
  • If there is mulch piled directly against the trunk, pull it back a few inches to expose the root flare.
  • Create a ring of mulch around the base of the trunk.  Make sure that no mulch touches the trunk.  Mulch should be shallow (three to four inches deep) but wide- the ring can be as wide as the branches of a newly planted tree.  Mulch smothers weeds, helps retain moisture and make good compost when it breaks down.
  • Replenish mulch as it breaks down and replace it every spring if it has been contaminated by toxic salts from winter snow removal or dog waste.
  • After one year – in 98% of the locations, the tree stakes should be removed.  Do not discard; they can be used again.
  • Look for any suckers (from the base of the tree) or unusual top growth and prune accordingly (as long as you have permission from the homeowner) or report to 3-1-1 (in the City).  You will need to know the habit of the species before judging if a tree has unusual growth.

Tip (same treatment as previous section) For tree emergency in the City of Buffalo, call the City’s help line 3-1-1.


Many city trees are surrounded by paved surfaces that cannot absorb water.  To survive, they need help from us:

  • Look around to see if there is a spigot for water on the outside of the building.  You can also carry a bucket of water from your home.  Finding a water source is one of the biggest challenges facing tree stewards.  Be creative!  If there is a community garden near the newly planted trees, the may have access to a hydrant.  Try asking the building superintendent or local businesses for access to an outdoor spigot.
  • Water each tree with 15 to 20 gallons once a week between May and October.  In times of drought or extreme heat, your tree may need more water.  If there is one inch or more of rain, the tree may need less.  Gently investigate the soil two or three inches below the surface to see if the soil is dry and needs water.
  • Water slowly so the water soaks into the soil and does not run off the surface.  If you made a ring of mulch or soil around the tree, this will hold the water for slow absorption.
  • Aerating the soil around your tree will also help with absorption.  When soil is broken up and soft, water can penetrate it more easily.

Tip:  Watering with less than 15-20 gallons leads to unhealthy surface root growth.  A slow, deep watering is best for the tree.  A tree irrigation bag can hold 15-20 gallons for slow absorption.


Tree bed gardening is a great way to green your neighborhood.  It also encourages neighbors to curb their dogs and avoid walking through tree beds.  But remember, when planning a tree bed garden, put the health of your tree first!

  • Plant small annuals or small bulbs around your tree.  This shows the world that the tree is being cared for.  Also, wilting plants are a good indicator that your tree needs to be watered.
  • Small annuals and bulbs will have less impact on your tree.  Large annuals, perennials or bulbs require larger planting holes that can damage tree roots.  They also tend to have larger root systems and compete with the tree for water and nutrients.
  • Choose plants with low water requirements.  Look for phrases like “drought tolerant” and “good for xeriscaping” in plant descriptions.
  • Most bulbs need at least a half-day of sun.  Because many trees lack leaves in early spring when most bulbs are in bloom, tree beds are an ideal environment for many small bulbs.

Tip:  Create a beautiful tree bed garden with any of the following species:

Annuals – Dusty Miller, Rock Rose, Marigold, Verbena, Zinnia, Nasturtium, Licorice Plant, Impatiens, and Coleums.

Bulbs – Crocus, Bluebells (prefer more shade), Chinodoxia, Winter Aconite, Lily-of-the-Valle, Snow Drops and Grape Hyacinth.