Welcome to a new year. A year that should be viewed as full of hope and promise. What would be a better contribution to this new year than planting a tree.
I know some of you have snow on the ground. I still have six inches in my yard. But others in the lower elevations such as Delta still would be able to plant a tree this winter. For others, you can read what follows so you are prepared for early spring planting. The key will be to find good available trees, not the castoffs from last year.
The Cedaredge Tree Board released a completely revised and expanded publication last fall that I authored titled, “Suggested Tree Planting List for Cedaredge and the Surrounding Surface Creek Area.” The information in this publication will be applicable to most areas of Delta County and the surrounding area. A printed copy is available at the Cedaredge Town Hall or electronically by Googling this publication title.
There are 42 deciduous trees listed and 11 evergreen trees as well. Nine trees are not recommended and ash trees are listed with a warning about the eventual invasion of the Emerald Ash Borer. The following are excerpts from this publication giving some advice about planting site selection, how to select trees at the nursery and tree planting tips.
Tree selection is one of the most important investment decisions you can make when landscaping a yard or replacing a tree lost to damage or disease. Most trees will outlive the people who plant them. Therefore the impact of this decision is one that can be an influence for a lifetime. Matching the tree to the site is critical; the following site and tree demands should be considered before buying and planting a tree.
Site considerations include: available space above and below ground, water availability, drainage, soil texture and pH, soil salt levels, sunlight levels/exposure, weather and other environmental factors. Tree considerations include: growth rate of the species selected, mature size, form, hardiness — ability of a tree to survive low temperatures, heat tolerance and drought tolerance, pest resistance maintenance issues, and native vs. non-native species.
Selecting trees at the nursery: When you buy a high-quality tree, plant it correctly, and treat it properly, you and your tree will benefit greatly for many years. When you buy a low-quality tree, you and your tree will have many costly headaches even if you take great care in planting and maintenance. Consider the following when selecting a tree at the nursery: Your tree should appear healthy. No discolored bark, wilted leaves, etc. Branches should be spaced evenly around the trunk. The tree’s trunk should taper from a solid base, gradually becoming more slender towards the top. Tree foliage and branches should be distributed on upper two-third of tree. The tree should contain a central, dominant leader. It should be free from mechanical damage. There should be no evidence of insect and disease problems. Roots should not be girdling, circling or pot bound.
Tree planting tips: You should plant the top of the root ball slightly above ground level. The root collar (flare) must be visible one inch above final grade. Set the root ball on solid ground and not on loose backfill in the hole. This will eliminate settling. Remove at least the top half of all wire baskets and burlap from balled and burlapped trees and completely remove containers from containerized stock. Be especially careful that you do not break the root ball. Do these removals once the tree is in the hole, not before. If you do crack or break the root ball, your tree will either slowly decline in health until death or will be delayed in its new growth for two or three years. Ask me how I know this.
Adding a soil amendment to the soil that refills the planting hole is not absolutely necessary but if done should represent no more than 15-20% of the total soil backfill. Too much soil amendment can cause a “potted tree” effect and restrict root growth. Backfill the hole with original soil. Do not fertilize at planting time. Optimum planting periods are from March 15 to June 15 and from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. But as long as the ground can be worked, you can plant in the winter. Avoid planting during the heat of summer if possible. Otherwise you will have to water frequently to avoid drought stress. Do make sure you provide enough water to the tree but not so much that it “drowns.”
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 Colorado Master Gardener.