Tree Selection and Planting
Trees have many terrific benefits. They are great for the environment, absorbing airborne toxins, releasing oxygen, and provide homes and shelter for wildlife. On your property, they can reduce energy bills by providing shade in the summer and blocking wind in the winter. They provide beauty and privacy to any landscape and can even increase your home's resale appeal. Whether you are planting a tree to help the environment or for the many benefits they directly provide to your property, here are several tips to follow when choosing, planting, and caring for your new tree.
CHOOSING A TREE
Choose a tree that will be appropriate for the area of your yard in which you are planting. Evergreens work well as wind barriers planted along the northern side of your property. Small trees work best near the road or power lines. Their roots are less likely to disturb road and sidewalk pavement and pruning will be less of an issue. Deciduous trees (trees that lose their leaves for winter) provide the best shade from the southern sun in the summer while allowing sun through in the cold winter months.
When selecting a new tree to plant in your yard, always remember that the roots are more important than the branches. Select a tree with good roots and you will already have a great start on the survival and health of the tree. If choosing a tree that is balled and burlapped or containerized, make sure the soil around the roots is firm and moist, which indicates the roots have been well cared for after the tree was removed from the original site.
Depending on the type of tree you purchase, planting methods will vary. If you purchase a bare root tree, the roots should be soaked in water for at least three hours prior to planting. Balled and burlapped trees can be inserted with the burlap intact, but any wire, staples and nails should be removed once it is inserted. Loosen the burlap from around the root ball. The burlap can remain in the hole as long as it is not treated or vinyl. A potted or containerized tree will need to be removed very carefully from its packaging. Thin plastic containers can be cut away, but some pots will need to be removed whole. Tap the outside of the pot gently with a hammer, and then very carefully wiggle the tree until it loosens from the pot. Do not pull the tree out by its trunk since this would damage the root system.
Dig a hole at least three times as wide as the root ball but only just as deep as the root ball. Plant your tree so that the base is very slightly above ground level (about a quarter to a half inch). Fill in around the tree with the same dirt you removed. If the soil in your area is very nutrient poor, you can add some nutrients to the soil, but beware that doing so might cause the tree to build its root system close to the base, preventing the growth of the wide, sturdy base necessary for a long and healthy life.
Second, consider buying a larger sized plant. Larger plants have a bigger root system which will help your plant take up enough water to deal with the high temperatures. Larger plants will also look more in scale with surrounding plants if you are filling in a hole in the landscape.
Build up the edges of the area you originally dug out to provide a bowl for watering. Water the tree according to your tree and climate recommendations. New trees require a lot of water, but are also susceptible to overwatering, so be sure to ask our garden center experts how your tree should be watered. Water your tree weekly to the tree’s required amounts, always taking rain water into account.
Next, fill in a two to three inch layer of mulch, keeping four inches clear in each direction around the base of the tree. The mulch will help prevent weed growth and keep water and soil temperatures more consistent. Mulch placed right up against the trunk can cause the trunk to stay too moist, causing trunk rot, so be sure to clear the area around the trunk from time to time. Keep mulching around the tree for the first two years, at which point the tree's root system will be firmly established and the tree should no longer need this additional support.
If any branches were broken or damaged during moving or planting, remove them with sharp shears right above the swollen area where the branch meets the leader (the "trunk" of the tree). Cut at a slight angle. Leave the rest of the branches intact for the first year, as the leaves will help the tree photosynthesize and encourage root growth. After the first year, prune any branches that are growing at odd angles, toward one another, or at the base of the tree. Leave a few small branches along the length of the trunk to promote trunk growth. After a few years, the small branches can be removed so that the foliage grows at the desired height. Remember that while trees grow upward, their branches do not rise with the growth, so branches that get in your way as you mow now will still get in your way ten years from now.
Following these simple rules for tree planting will help ensure the long and healthy life of your tree. Come into your local Menards® Garden Center to get expert advice on planting trees in your area.