Planting a tree this summer? Trees provide a variety of benefits to the home landscape — from creating a shady retreat for humans and wildlife, to cooling the home and protecting it from wind damage, to screening out unwanted views. The right tree can even add value to your home.
Keep the following tips in mind when you plant to ensure years of healthy tree ownership.
The Right Tree
Many trees are like puppies. They look small and cute when young, but can become quite large when mature. The Douglas fir, for instance, is a beautiful tree native to western Canada, but it towers at 35 to 45 meters or taller at maturity. If you have an expansive landscape, such a tree may be a good choice. But it is not appropriate for small yards and should never be planted near the house.
Better urban tree choices include small selections like the Globe Norway Maple, which reaches just six to nine meters. As its name suggests, the Dwarf White Pine reaches one to two meters. And the Emerald Cedar grows about four meters high. Japanese Maples are another good choice, growing two to six meters tall, depending on the variety.
When choosing a tree for a small garden, opt for one that reaches a maximum of six meters. Also check on the eventual spread of the canopy (upper portion) of the tree to make sure that it won’t run into overhead structures.
The Perfect Spot
The appropriate location is critical to long-term tree health. Trees requiring full sun need six to eight hours of direct sunlight each day. Those that grow in shade, like some Japanese Maples, can often take morning sun and afternoon shade or bright indirect light throughout the day. Ensure that your tree has enough room to grow vertically and horizontally. You will want to plant small trees at least 1.5 meters from the house.
Most trees require well-draining soil. When it rains or you water, the site should drain within an hour or two. If the area has standing water after more than two hours, the drainage is poor. Try to improve drainage by amending with compost and sand, or choose another area that drains more quickly.
You can plant deciduous trees in the spring as soon as the ground can be worked or in the fall before the first freeze. Evergreen trees can be planted in the spring, early summer or fall until the end of October.
Before planting, clear the area and surrounding soil of any weeds or debris. Dig a hole twice as wide as the tree’s root ball and mix in compost and a high-phosphorus fertilizer, according to package directions. Then slightly moisten the soil in the planting hole and create a cone-shaped mound with the soil in the center of the hole. Set the roots of the tree on top of the mound, spreading the roots out to the sides. Refill the hole with soil removed during digging and pat down. Water well.
Be sure to stake trees that are taller than one meter to keep them from toppling over in the wind.
New trees need some extra attention. In the absence of rainfall, water your tree twice a week for the first two months and then weekly for the first year. In the second year, water twice a month in the spring and fall. Failing to give a new tree adequate moisture can stunt plant growth and even lead to death.
Feed new trees with a well-balanced fertilizer once in the spring and early summer only after they show new growth.
When you admire your new tree, pat yourself on the back. In addition to beautifying your landscape and creating a shady retreat, you’ve made a valuable contribution to the environment and the future.
By Julie Bawden-Davis
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