Maturity has, in some ways, changed my way of thinking. An example of this is the simple act of taking a shower. A shower used to be a few moments of renewal, a chance to freshen up a body that had celebrated spring in the garden or landscape, or planting trees on Tulsa’s highways. A body that could work hard all day, then shower, then go out for the evening. Now that same shower provides a very slick environment, an environment that no longer refreshes, but threatens with fears of a painful fall or worse.
Our mature trees in our urban forest have celebrated scores of springs. They, like me now, are experiencing life as a mature individual that is living among many things that can pose a threat to them. Things that cause any deviation to their normal growth or lifespan are called a disease. Disease comes from two large sources, the environment or, “abiotic diseases” and disease organisms called “biotic diseases”.
Prevention from disease is always the best way to help our senior trees live life to their fullest. For me, that means my wife is now force-feeding me vitamins, making me stay up on my flu shots, and making sure I eat my bran.
Our senior trees will also benefit from a regiment of care. Ponder the largest tree that you have seen in the Oklahoma forest. That tree doesn’t need an annual fertilizer program or weekly irrigation to keep healthy enough to fend off disease agents. Why? The genetics have developed that plant to resist the worse that Oklahoma has to give, and much of the environment that it is living in, is now under the control of the tree itself. The tree has successfully kept competition for soil elements, water and light away by being large enough to shade all others out.
Ideally we will provide a similar environment for our trees. To ensure that they stay healthy and disease-free in maturity, remove competing plants from their bases, especially Bermuda grass, take a soil sample and amend the soil as recommended, don’t overwater as this may cause root rot, and have the tree professionally pruned to avoid environmental damage. Celebrate maturity with your woody friend, knowing that if given a chance you wouldn't want to do anything different!