Tree Planting Tips By Steve Roark TN Division of Forestry

Tree Planting Tipstree-in-hand-2
By Steve Roark
TN Division of Forestry

Humans have a natural love for trees, being both majestic, and pleasing to the eye. Their beauty alone is enough reason to plant them, but trees 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 you have room and decide to plant some yard trees, here are some tips on planting a tree that will be happy and healthy.

Brain before shovel: Do some research and select a tree that’s adapted to the planting site. The information tag will tell you most of what you need to know, but the main things are to be sure the tree can handle our temperature ranges (described by planting zone), and that the site can provide the right soil moisture and sunlight preferences. Also be sure the tree won’t outgrow the planting site. Common problems I’ve seen include planting trees too close together, planting too close to buildings or 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.

Make the effort to plant it right: Dig the hole twice as wide as the root ball. Lawn soils are often compacted and so a big hole will loosen things up for the roots to grow do their thing. Plant the tree at the same depth it was grown (you can see a bark color change). If it’s a balled tree, remove all string and wire from root ball, and remove the covering if it’s not a biodegradable material (it’s normally burlap, which is okay to leave on). Unless the soil is very poor, do not add manure or any other amendments to the backfill dirt. Fertilizer is not recommended the first year because it will encourage top growth over root growth, which can create an imbalance. 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 some with the wind. This helps strengthen the stem and upper support roots. Consider planting bare root stock over ball and burlap trees. 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.

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 easily damaged. Dinging up the base of the tree can kill it through girdling, or allow decay fungi to enter the tree and ruin it over time.

Tennessee’s Arbor Day on March 3, so it’s a great time to get out there and celebrate trees by planting one. A quote on the subject comes from Theodore Roosevelt: “A people without children would face a hopeless future; a country without trees is almost as helpless.”

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