Saturday, June 11, 2016

How To Plant Trees and Shrubs

Weigela an early summer blooming  shrub with arching branches loaded with blooms.

Nothing is more discouraging than researching and selecting a tree or shrub only to have it die unexpectedly.  Whether a fruit tree or landscape tree, if planted improperly, it will deteriorate slowly.  There is a lot of misinformation on planting trees.  So maybe this post will set the record straight.

Trees can be purchased as bareroot, container-grown, or bailed and burlapped.  I prefer bare root trees but that is not always an option.  Here are some things to consider.
Spiraea clusters of white flowers.

Container grown:  For convenience, many nurseries are growing trees in container rather than the ground.  This can create some problems.  If the tree or shrub is left in the container too long the roots may begin to grow in a circular pattern.  When the tree is planted, the roots continue this growth pattern and the result is a tree that eventually declines and dies.  When purchasing a container tree, pull the root ball from the container and look for circling roots.  You can also poke around the soil feeling for circling roots.
Spirea blooms

Bare-Root Trees:  Most bare-root trees are purchased by mail order from nurseries in late winter or early spring.  They are usually shipped at the appropriate time based on your planting zone.  They will come to you with the roots packed in moss or shredded newspaper and in a plastic bag.  When you receive them, they are dormant.  Immediately open the package.  If you are not planting immediately, then moisten the root ball and keep the tree in a dark cool place.  When planting, remove the packing and put the roots in a bucket of water just prior to planting.  Position the roots and plant at the same level as it was planted in the nursery.  To determine the planting depth, look for a darker area of bark which is an indication of the soil line.  I have had tremendous success in planting bare root trees both landscape and fruit trees.  I highly recommend going this route if it is available to you.

Balled and Burlapped Tree:  The key here is purchasing from a reputable nursery that is experienced in handling this type of tree. Sometimes mechanical planting results in the tree being planted to deeply and then when dug up mechanically roots will be severed.  

When you place the tree in the planting hole remove the burlap and any ties and wrapping.  Sometimes it is difficult to remove all wrapping but do your best.  Only untreated burlap will decay so if left on it will inhibit root growth.  Even untreated burlap takes years to decay so it is best to remove it.

The following is taken from Better Homes and Garden New Complete Guide to Gardening.  It is a great summary of the latest proven planting methods.

New Method:  Dig a wide tree hole no deeper than the existing root ball.  This prevents the soil from settling.

Old Method:  Dig a wide and deep hole.  This often caused the tree to settle and sink down.
Gooseberry an edible landscape shrub with thorns.

New Method:  Refill the planting hole with soil you removed from the planting hole.  This encourages roots to grow outward from the planting hole.

Old Method:  Lots of organic matter used to be added to the planting hole.  Many times the roots grew in a circular manner never leaving the hole.

New Method:  Remove all burlap from the root ball.

Old Method:  Leave burlap on root ball.  Synthetic burlap does not decay and will inhibit root growth.

New Method:  Only stake a tree if it cannot stand by itself.  If staking only do so for a year and make the ties lose.  Some movement strengthens the trunk.

Old Method:  Rigidly stake all new trees and leave stakes on for years.  Unstaked trees that sway with the wind are stronger and more resistant to breakage.

New Method:  Do not prune branches to make up for root loss.  Only prune damaged limbs.

Old Method:  In the past 1/3 of the top was removed to compensate for root loss at planting time.  New research shows this is unnecessary.  The buds and leaves will produce hormones that stimulate new root growth.

New Method:  Do not wrap tree trunks.  Painting with a 1:1 water and flat indoor latex paint can be done only if the tree is exposed to reflected sun and heat from concrete, pavement, or snow.

Old Method:  Wrapped trees cause damage to bark and harbor insects.

One last note.  Do your research when choosing a tree.  It is a long term investment.  Be sure to know the mature size, soil and moisture requirements, durability in wind, growth rate, lifespan, and whether seed pods will be a problem.  Be sure to look at fall and summer color.

Shrubs are also an investments. Consider suckering, pruning requirements, and pest and disease resistance. Both trees and shrubs can add to the beauty and enjoyment of your landscape or cause your grief if you do not do some research.

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