How to plant a tree
The biggest mistake gardeners make when adding trees to the landscape is to plant them too deep, says Dick Till, assistant district manager South Pittsburgh for the Davey Tree Expert Company.
For over 30 years, Till has helped homeowners make good choices when planting trees. “More than half of my job is educating people on how to plant trees and take care of them,” he says.
“They think they are doing the tree a favor by planting it deep,” the ISA certified arborist says. “The roots need oxygen to grow and develop and if you plant them too deep they don’t get the oxygen they need.”
He uses a shovel handle in the planting hole to assure the tree is planted at the right level.
Another mistake is digging a cylindrical hole instead of a ball-shaped hole.
“You want the soil to be loose around the upper root zone,” he says.
The hole should be about twice as wide as the root ball, he adds. Backfilling with the native soil is best, but if the dirt is all clay, dig a bigger hole and incorporate some organic matter with the backfill.
Remove string, as much wire and burlap as possible if it’s a balled in burlap. Smaller trees don’t need staking, but bigger trees especially if sited in the open or a windy area should be staked.
It’s also critical to know how big the tree will get. Choose a spot that will let it reach maturity. “You’ve got to have a little foresight,” he says. “You’ve got to picture down the road when it’s 25 feet tall.”
Be sure to keep the roots watered if rain is scarce until the ground freezes.
Use 2 to 3 inches of mulch to keep the root zone moist, but don’t let the mulch touch the trunk of the tree. It should look more like a doughnut than a volcano. Mulching improperly by piling the material up the trunk is one of the worst thing a gardener can do to a tree.
With temperatures dropping, this is the perfect time to plant trees. “Usually in the fall Mother Nature helps us out with rain,” he adds.
The window for planting is open now and runs until the soil freezes solid.
The next spring, continue watering especially if there’s two or three weeks without water.
“Trees enhance your property values,” Till says. “Some numbers say trees could add 10 to 15 percent to the value of your property.”
This article showcases some interesting trees to plant in the landscape.
Doug Oster is editor of Everybody Gardens, a website operated by 535Media, LLC. Reach him at 412-965-3278 or firstname.lastname@example.org. See other stories, videos, blogs, tips and more at everybodygardens.com.