Landscaping: Planting A Tree
In his famous poem, “Trees,” poet Joyce Kilmer wrote; “I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.” We couldn’t agree more. However, a tree isn’t simply an object of beauty — it provides several other benefits. It can protect your home from the elements, increase personal comfort and lower your utility bill. And in the case of a fruit-bearing tree, it can even lower your grocery bill. When all is said and done, the basic goal when landscaping with trees is to block the cold winter winds and the intense summer sun while letting the beneficial winter sun and summer breezes through.
There are environmental benefits too. A tree helps conserve soil and water and helps preserve the balance of gases in the atmosphere. A tree’s leaves absorb carbon dioxide from the air. Trees also produce oxygen and release it into the atmosphere. Both of these processes are necessary for people to live.
However, before you run off to the garden center, there are a few things that you should know that will help you choose a tree that will best meet your needs. The first decision is to determine the type of tree you want – fruit bearing or ornamental. By the way, a fruit tree can be ornamental, but not all ornamental trees bear fruit.
Between the two of us we have enough fruit trees – orange, tangerine, lime, lemon, grapefruit, peach, apricot, plum and apple — to open our very own fruit stand. Keep in mind that we live in a climate where all of these trees prosper. Such is not the case for everyone. Thus, an equally important decision when choosing a tree is its compatibility with your climate zone. A nursery or garden center professional should be able to help you with this. If not, there are several outstanding reference books that will tell you everything you need to know.
Another decision is whether your tree will be an evergreen or one that will lose its leaves (deciduous) in fall. Evergreens provide year-round beauty, but, for the most part, are absent of the breathtaking color pallets that are common to deciduous trees. Moreover, a tree that drops its leaves will allow much needed rays of sun to warm the home during the cooler months of the year. This can help reduce home heating costs and the added sunshine will also help combat mold and fungus growth on roofing, siding, paths, patios and decks. By the same token, one or more strategically placed shade trees can significantly lower the temperature in your home, thus increasing personal comfort and lowering cooling costs.
When choosing a tree, consider the height and shape that it will attain at maturity. In addition to meeting your specific landscaping needs, doing so will also help you determine the number of trees to plant and how far to plant them from your house for the best shading.
Another equally important consideration when tree shopping is maintenance. All trees will require some level of maintenance – some more than others. For example, a slow-growing evergreen won’t need to be pruned often and there are no leaves to rake. On the other hand, a fast-growing shade tree that loses its leaves can require frequent pruning and several weekends devoted to raking leaves.
There are other care and maintenance issues to consider. Some trees drop seeds, nuts and/or ooze sap. Others attract bugs and/or release pollen that may prompt you to pull out the old chainsaw after a few years. Thus, consider any potential drawbacks before planting your tree.
Planting a tree isn’t as simple as digging a hole, filling it with dirt and giving it an occasional drink of water. There are several steps that you can take that will give your tree a good start and keep it growing healthy for years to come.
A containerized tree will come in a pot or with the root ball wrapped in burlap. In either case, the planting process is essentially the same. Start by choosing a planting location that is in full sun. Don’t let the root ball dry out before planting and always handle the tree by the root ball – not the branches or trunk.
Next, dig the hole twice as wide as the root ball or container and no deeper than the height of the root ball. The soil that is dug out of the hole will be used to backfill around the root ball. Remove the container or the burlap surrounding the root ball and place the tree in the hole. The burlap below the root ball can remain and will eventually rot away. Check the condition of the root ball. If the roots are tight or “bound,” loosen them by making some vertical cuts using a garden trowel or knife. Backfill the hole with soil while firming but not compacting. If your soil isn’t the best, check with your nursery or garden professional for suggestions on planting amendments and a starter fertilizer.
An important step that is often overlooked is the staking. Most folks simply leave in the stake that was supplied with the tree, which is almost always not adequate for the first year’s growth. Use two amply sized stakes driven solidly into the ground on either side of the tree. The trunk should be loosely tied to the stakes with rubber ties.
With the tree planted and staked, build a four-inch berm around the outer edge of the hole to create a basin. Fill the basin with mulch to the top of the berm. The basin helps the tree get plenty of water and the mulch keeps the soil moist and helps to prevent weed growth.
Complete the planting process by watering the tree in by filling the basin with water. This will start the tree off with a good drink of water and settle the soil around the root ball. Lightly water the tree everyday for the first week after planting and then on a regular schedule thereafter.