So you think you know everything necessary to plant properly and grow a beautiful tree successfully? Well maybe you do, but many folks do not.
Just maybe you lucked out and your planted tree lived in spite of your best efforts.
Most causes of tree murder are preventable. An added bonus is that proper planting and care can create a better-looking tree and one that just might live healthier and longer.
So what are the common preventable causes of poor growth and/or early mortality of trees planted in an urban setting? First on the list is allowing a tree's root system to dry out before you plant it. Second is not watering your newly planted tree right after planting. But most importantly, planting your tree deeper than the original ground-line it had in the nursery. Sometimes even nursery trees are already planted too deep in their containers.
Your planting hole should be three times the width of your root ball and a couple of inches shallower than the vertical height of the root ball. The root flare will be just at or below the soil surface. And do not loosen the soil at the bottom of the hole. Otherwise the tree will sink into the hole and end up being planted too deep.
If the tree is a B&B (balled and burlaped), you will need to remove the wire cage, nylon cord and burlap at least 50% down the root ball. Don't do this before placing the tree in its final hole position and make sure you do not allow the root ball to come apart. Ignore this last advice and you surely have signed your tree's death warrant.
Make sure there are no circling roots. Check this out in the nursery, at least the most surface roots. Any circling roots will need to be cut.
Backfill with native soil or soil that has had a little soil amendment added to increase porosity. Too much amendment and new roots produced will not leave the original planting hole.
Water the newly planted tree to settle the soil. Do not stomp on it to pack it down. Consider watering a larger area to encourage root spread. You can create a watering basin to facilitate watering in the first year but after that, break it down and water a much larger area.
Staking is only to prevent the root ball from moving until new roots grow outward and anchor the tree. Otherwise, wind movement will cause new roots to shear off. Stake the tree low, 1-2 feet above ground, unless this creates a hazard to pedestrian traffic. We are not trying to prevent the upper part of the tree from moving in the wind. This movement is good. Staking should be removed after the first year.
Do wrap your tree trunk for the first or second year with a light-colored wrap to minimize sun scald. Do not over fertilize your newly planted tree. In fact, don't fertilize the first year and only in the spring. Mulch around your tree to hold moisture in but don't let it touch the tree itself. And if at all possible, plant your trees outside of the lawn area.
My next column will continue our discussion on how to kill a tree (actually not kill a tree) once it is planted. Come to Cedaredge's AppleFest and visit the Cedaredge Tree Board booth at the Pioneer Town Arboretum. We will be there Saturday to answer any and all gardening questions and give away three free trees in a drawing. Until then, happy gardening.
Jim Leser retired to Cedaredge after a career with Texas A&M University Extension in entomology. He is a member of the Cedaredge Tree Board and a master gardener.blog comments powered by Disqus