4 THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING YOUR NEXT BACKYARD TREE
Planning prevents potential problems
Trees provide shade...they offer habitats for wildlife...they share their branches for swinging and climbing...and additionally, they are a great investment in the future of your property. With all of the benefits trees offer, it’s important to give them the best possible start by planting them correctly. Mistakes made in planting can cause tree problems for years to come. Here’s what you need to know to plant a tree properly.
Choose a young tree. Pick one grown in a container with a trunk no more than 1 inch in diameter. Older, larger trees are more difficult to plant, and it’s also harder for them to recover from the shock of transplanting. A younger, smaller tree grown in a container will start growing more quickly.
Handle with care. The bark of young trees is thin and easily damaged. Carry the tree by its pot and avoid handling the trunk or branches.
Don’t plant the tree too deep. This is the biggest mistake you can make. The trunk flare—the place where the trunk curves out to meet the roots—must be at or above the level of the surrounding soil. To know how deep you should plant your tree, find the trunk flare (you may need to feel down into the soil; often the trunk flare is buried in the pot). Use a yardstick to measure the distance straight down from the level of the trunk flare to the bottom of the pot. This is the depth of root ball.
Dig a wide, shallow hole. Make it more like a saucer than a bucket, with sloping sides. At the center, it should be no deeper than your measurement of the root ball. Check the depth by laying a shovel or rake flat across the hole and measuring down from the bottom of its handle.
Gently remove the tree from the pot. You may need to roll the pot back and forth to loosen the root ball. Slide it from the pot near the edge of the hole. Inspect the roots. Look for roots that are circling around the root ball; they can choke the growing tree. Cut them with sharp pruners or a sharp knife. If there are many circling roots, use your knife or a sharp spade to slice about 1 inch from each side of the root ball. New roots will sprout and spread out from the cut roots.
Place the tree in the hole. Check to make sure the root flare is at the level of the surrounding soil or 1 to 2 inches above that level (over time, the tree may settle). Make sure the trunk of the tree is upright and that it’s facing the right way. Usually, the best-looking side should face the street or the window from which you’ll be viewing the tree.
Fill the hole. Use the same soil you removed, without adding compost or any other amendment. After filling the hole halfway, double-check that the tree is vertical from every angle. Gently pack the soil down with your feet. Then fill the hole the rest of the way. Don’t pile soil on top of the root ball or bury the root flare. If you have too much soil, spread it out around the hole.
Water. With a hose or buckets, gently pour at least 10 gallons of water onto the root ball and over the rest of the hole to settle the soil.
Mulch. Spread wood chips or shredded wood mulch in an even layer about 3 to 4 inches deep in a wide circle around the trunk. The wider the mulch circle, the better. Do not pile mulch against the trunk of the tree. Pull the mulch 3 to 4 inches away from the bark. Skip staking and pruning. There is rarely any reason to stake or prune a young tree when planting it.
Keep watering. For the first two years, water the tree slowly and thoroughly every week or two. It will take that long for the tree to grow enough new roots to collect sufficient water from rain. Careful attention when the tree is young will provide the necessary foundation for it to flourish for years to come. And one more thing...take a picture of your family by the tree each year to appreciate how the tree - and your family - are growing!