Gardens

Caring for a Beech Tree

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The beech tree is amongst the most popular of household, ornamental trees. Beech trees are easy to maintain, needing minimal seasonal care. However, there are some basic beech care requirements that should not be neglected. There are two main types of beech trees -- American Beech and European Beech. These two varieties have some typical features that should be considered when caring for them.

American Beech Care Tips

The American beech is also called the beechnut tree because of the edible, beechnut that it produces in the fall season. Its scientific name is the Fagus grandiflora.

Soil Compaction

A fundamental aspect of growing an American beech is the soil bed. Areas with regular human/vehicular traffic are not suited for this tree. American beeches need more soil surface ventilation than most trees and compacted soil beds can lead to stunted growth.

Transplantation

American beech needs special care during transplantation. This is because the soil bed needs to be slightly acidic or within the neutral-to-acidic range. If you aren't sure about the pH of your garden soil, it is best to get it confirmed from an experienced gardener. Altering the soil pH levels is not demanding. Soil additives for this purpose are available at garden supply stores.

European Beech Care Tip: Mulching

The European beech has a fibrous root system that makes it easier-to-plant than the American beech. It doesn't have soil pH issues like the American beech. However, this is a faster growing variety of beech. Therefore, it needs a perennially moist soil bed that makes it easier for the young roots to grow deeper. Excessive watering, and resulting waterlogging, can make this tree susceptible to fungal infections. Hence, regular mulching of the European beech is recommended. You should use mulch prepared from wood bits and perlite. This helps to keep the soil bed moisturized along with ensuring that excess water is drained.

General Beech Tree Care

The following tips are applicable to both types of beech trees discussed above:

Pruning

The foliage of the beech tree is often clustered around the basal stem region. This increases the chances of the leaves being affected by soil-borne fungal spores. Further, the stems may branch excessively during the growth season, cutting-off ventilation among the inner foliage. Therefore, repeated pruning in beech trees is needed. Always prune the tree, particularly central and basal foliage, before and after the growing season.

Watering Regimen

Beech trees need to be watered regularly during the dry season as the bark can get scorched. Powdery mildew is the most common fungal infection among beech trees. It can be easily detected due to its typical symptom of a white, powdery coating enveloping the leaves. This fungal infection can be controlled by avoiding spray-based watering. Try to use a soaker-system of watering.

Insect Infestation Prevention

The compact bark is a popular, ornamental feature of beech trees but its wood isn't very hard. This makes the bark vulnerable to attacks by pests like aphid and borers. Aphids can be easily controlled by regularly spraying the tree with insect sprays that have Malathion as an ingredient. Common beech tree borers include the apple tree borer and chestnut borer. Dry-season spraying of the tree with a mixture of soap, oil and multipurpose insecticide helps to keep away the borers.

Beech Bark Disease Prevention (Fertilization)

Beech trees grown in nutritionally-deficient soil beds often become susceptible to the damaging, beech bark disease. Beech bark is actually a fugal infection that usually affects the lower stem region. Beech bark disease is initiated by the feeding injury marks created by the beech scales. These injury sites are eventually invaded by the Nectria fungus. 

Please understand that cases of advanced bark disease cannot be controlled through organic or chemical control. Appropriate soil fertilization is critical to prevent bark disease. Ensure that the soil is enriched with basic, NPK fertilizers at least once every growing season. You should regularly check for any kind of spotting on the main stem. The spots of bark disease have defined, blackish outer margins. Regularly spray the infected stem with a mixture of horticultural oil and lime-sulfur. If the scale disease still seems to be spreading, you can consider chemical control. You should use fungicides that have high concentrations of benomyl.

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