Tree Planting Tips

Humans have a natural love for trees. They are majestic, and pleasing to the eye.  Their beauty alone is enough reason  to plant them, but they are also a good investment for your home. Studies have shown that trees contribute as much as 20% of the appraised value of a home in certain markets. So if I’ve convinced you to plant some yard trees, let me give you some tips on planting a tree that will be happy and healthy.

Tip 1: Use your brain before your shovel. Do some research and select tree species that are adapted to the planting site.  The information tag will give you most of the information you need, but the main things are to be sure the tree species can handle our temperature ranges (planting zone), and that the site can provide  the right soil moisture and sunlight preferences. And while you’re looking at the tag or researching the tree on the internet, be sure it will not outgrow the planting site. Common problems I’ve seen include planting trees too close together, planting  too close to buildings and septic systems, or planting under utility lines.  Figure out what the average height and crown spread the tree will become when mature and make sure the planting site can handle it. While deciding on what species to plant, let me make a pitch for native trees, which are already adapted to our climate.

Tip 2: Make the effort to plant it right. Dig the hole at least twice as wide and 1 and 1/4 times as deep as the root mass.  If the soil is hard and compacted dig an even bigger hole. Plant tree at the same depth it was grown (you can see a bark color change). If it’s a ball and burlap tree, remove all string and wire from root ball; Remove the cover if it’s not a biodegradable material. Unless the soil is very poor, do not add manure, peat moss or compost to the backfill dirt. Fertilizer is not recommended the first year because that will encourage top growth over root growth, and can grow more tree than the roots can support. Mulching is always good, as it helps keep the soil moist and mowing equipment away from the stem. If you need to stake the tree, give it a little slack so it will sway with the wind.  This helps strengthen the stem and upper support roots. Let me also make a pitch for planting bare root stock over ball and burlap.  They are less expensive, less work to plant, and go through less transplant shock.  They are small I know, and don’t provide that instant gratification of planting a larger tree.  But over time they will normally catch up with the balled trees because the balled tree must grow back 75%  of the roots it lost when it was dug up, so it sits with little top growth for several years. There are several mail order companies that sell bare root stock.

Tip 3: Give some love the first year. Keep the tree watered during the growing season when the weather is dry. Figure out some way to keep the lawn mower and grass trimmer away from the tree trunk.  Young trees have very thin bark and very easily damaged.  Dinging up the base of the tree can kill it through girdling, or allow heart rotting fungi to enter the tree and ruin it over time.

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