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Planting and Caring for Ash Trees in California

Tree foliage in morning light
Ash trees are known for their opposite branching and their slender leaves. Their tall, straight trunks make them a tidy choice for backyards - ash trees tend to have a sweet, appealing scent. Planting ash trees in California is not overly challenging, and several varieties do well in the climate. Before you plant an ash tree, take a look at the advice below for selecting, planting, and caring for the tree.

Selecting Your Ash Tree

Two types of ash do quite well throughout California. If you prefer a smaller tree that grows to about 20 feet, then a California ash should fit the bill. If you prefer a 30- to 50-foot tree with a wide crown to cast shade, then you should choose an Arizona ash. Regardless of the variety you choose, you should look for a young tree with a strong stem, bountiful leaves, and an upright shape.

Planting Your Ash Tree

Before you plant the tree, choose the perfect planting site. Arizona and California ash trees have similar preferences when it comes to soil and sunlight. Both prefer full sunlight, and both will tolerate a variety of soil types. Try to choose a site that is reasonably well-drained and sunny. Plant the tree at least 15 feet from your home's foundation or any other structures so that the roots do not interfere with your structures as the tree grows.
The secret to planting any tree properly lies in digging a proper hole. Dig the hole at least twice, if not three times, as wide as the root ball. As you backfill the hole, be careful not to pile dirt against the trunk. Remember the trunk should stay straight. Water the tree as soon as you're finished filling the hole to help moisten the roots effectively.

Caring for Your Ash Tree

As your ash tree ages, you'll need to pay attention to several different aspects of tree care.
Water
Water your ash tree every few days as it is establishing its roots. After a few weeks, stop watering as frequently. Once the tree is rooted, you should only have to water it during periods of drought. California and Arizona ash trees are quite tolerant to  droughts, and you can create problems by over-watering.
Fertilizer
You don't need to fertilize your ash tree just after planting. However, you can apply fertilizer around the tree once a year to encourage rapid, healthy growth. Applying wood mulch around the tree also gives it a consistent source of organic material while helping to hold in a little moisture. 
Pruning
One of the great things about ash trees is that they require very little pruning. However, every couple of years, you should have a tree care company prune away dead and damaged branches, but do not expect them to significantly reduce or shape your tree. Remember to check on your ash tree after any storms or high winds, and have an expert come to remove branches that are cracked or broken.
Disease Control
Ash trees are prone to a number of diseases, so keep your eyes open for any signs of illness. A few ash diseases and blights to watch out for include:
  • Ash Flower Gall: Tiny mites cause the tree to develop galls, or raised bumps. To control ash flower gall, apply insecticides and make sure the tree gets plenty of sun.
  • Verticillium Wilt: A fungus infects the tree, causing it to die back and develop yellow leaves. There is no cure to this disease, but pruning and fertilizing can help manage the condition.
  • Ash Anthracnose: Fungi cause the leaves to develop brown patches. Pruning away heavily infected branches can help keep the disease from spreading.
The emerald ash borer, a green insect that kills ash trees, has not yet spread to California. However, these insects may spread further west in the future, so alert your tree care company if you spot bright green beetles on your tree.
Do you have any questions or concerns about planting or caring for your ash tree? Contact our team at Community Tree Service Inc. & Dumpster Rentals for more information or to schedule a tree care appointment.