THE SECRETS TO KEEPING A TREE healthy are proper feeding, adequate water, low stress, pest and disease treatments, when necessary, and occasional health checks, along with a good dose of sunshine. Stunted growth and lack of color are just some of the possible effects a tree might sustain when its not getting what it needs to stay healthy.

Arborists and other professionals are called upon to help ensure that trees get the nutrients they need to flourish in adverse environments. While many things go into building a hearty tree, proper management is perhaps the most critical factor. A healthy tree will be able to better withstand drought conditions and be more resistant to disease or pests.

While trees technically make their own food through photosynthesis, they still benefit from the building blocks we feed them in nutrients and minerals. Traditionally, tree food is defined as fertilizer, but just because its food doesn?t mean its good food. And while too much food won?t make a tree fat (like you and me), excessive fertilizer can hurt the tree by killing beneficial microorganisms such as mycorrhizae in the soil and roots.

A little help The best feeding solutions include mycorrhizae. Mycorrhizae are fungi that form symbiotic and mutually beneficial relationships with plants (usually with the roots). Mycorrhizae help increase establishment and growth, extend the roots? surface area and boost resistance against stress. Trees, in turn, provide carbohydrates that the mycorrhizae need to thrive.

Mycorrhizae improves plant health and performance by boosting nutrient and moisture uptake. They also increase a tree?s tolerance to a wide variety of environmental extremes such as drought, salty irrigation water or soils, and waterlogged, compacted or anaerobic soils. Research shows that plants receiving a mycorrhizae supplement can experience an 18-fold increase in total root surface.

?It?s a very beneficial cycle,? says Kristi Woods, research associate for Roots. ?After the mycorrhizae colonize and begin to multiply, they spur the roots to expand, which then prompts the mycorrhizae to reproduce again in order to colonize the roots. The effects of mycorrhizae are seen in improvements to not only the root system but also the color, foliage, and overall health of the tree,? says Woods.

Even though mycorrhizae are found naturally in soil and roots, some environments?especially those affected by humans?may have reduced populations, falling short of the level required to support a tree. Construction, tillage, compaction, erosion, pesticides and even fertilization can negatively impact the soil and harm the supportive fungi on which trees depend. Unfortunately, damage to a tree may not be visible for years, making regular feeding and treatment for even ?healthy looking? trees even more important.

?Constant care is really key to healthy trees and shrubs,? says Woods. A mycorrhizae spike introduced by Roots is ideal because it combines 6-10-10 fertilizer, 18 strains of mycorrhizae and a biostimulant complex to make a yearround, complete nutrition solution. Mycorrhizal-based spikes release elements over time directly to the root zone.

A biological feeding approach maintains a tree by using more of its natural support systems. Even when water runs dry, a tree supported by high levels of mycorrhizae will resist drought and stay healthier than other trees.

Trees exposed to the stress of construction can thrive with the added support of mycorrhizae. And yearround feeding no longer need take days or weeks of attention, given delivery methods such as spikes. We can?t deny ourselves a string of meals and still expect to maintain a healthy body, so why should we expect trees to do that?