By Richard Kitsmiller
Planting trees on your property will ad value and equity to your home. Planting a new tree can be simple or complicated. It can involve landscapers designers heavy equipment and expense or you can buy a tree on sale for a few bucks, bring it home plant it in the lawn and walk away. Certainly, you’ll never be sorry for planting a tree especially after you see it grow large and strong.
One of the ways I have used to improve every property I have owned is to plant between 5 to 10 new trees every year. This works for me because I always live in the country on at least five acres but it can work for you even if you live in town on a small lot. Trees are an improvement to most any property and one of the cheapest improvements you can make. Look at 2 similar homes side by side. The one with nice large trees will sell quicker and for more money every single time.
The Right Location for your new Tree
Plant that tree in the right location and you really will have no regrets. Plant a tree that gets large a few feet from your house and you will sing the blues later as the tree rubs against your house and the roots damage your foundation. Plant a small tree or tree like shrub if you need to fill a location next to your house. Plant a medium tree in the back yard or side yard and larger trees if you have a large front or back yard. Follow these simple rules and you will have no regrets later when your tree reaches mature size
Planting the Tree
To plant a tree dig a hole shaped like a triangle. In the old days we would recommend you dig a round hole to plant your tree. Now we recommend a 3 point triangle shaped hole so the roots will not circle around the hole you dig. With a triangle shaped hole the roots will go out to the end of the triangle and penetrate the outer ground better. While this is not always a problem it can be so why not use the triangle hole and be sure. Do not amend the soil to much when you dig a hole to plant your tree. You want the tree’s roots to get into the regular soil right away and extend out to find water. I do recommend you dig a larger hole but only to break up the soil so the roots can penetrate it better.
The base of the tree where the roots flair out should be at or above the base of the ground, do not plant the tree so the base of the roots is below ground level. If the base of the tree is planted below ground level there is a danger that the planting hole will fill up with water allowing the roots to become water logged. This can be a problem if the soil is not well drained and the tree is planted in your lawn.
Watering your new Tree
Some people prefer to place a ring or berm of soil around the tree so it can be filled with water. A much better solution is to use a drip irrigation system and water enough so the soil becomes completely wetted down to the base of the roots and out a foot or so beyond the drip line of the tree. If you do not have an irrigation system and must water with a hose you can still use a drip irrigation setup and water longer but more slowly so the soil is wetted completely.
Buy a section of 1 inch pvc pipe and build a square section with an opening on one side large enough to go around your tree. This will look something like a U shape. Place drip emitters in the pvc every 6 to 8 inches. Use low output emitters, something such as 1 gallon per hour. This way you can connect the hose to this setup and leave it on low for 3 or 4 hours so it waters the tree slowly and the water does not run off but seeps into the soil completely. When you water your new tree this way you will be able to water more completely but less often.
If you do not have an irrigation system then you should add a note to your calendar to remind yourself to water the new tree you planted. Another thing I recommend is to purchase a moisture meter to check your tree. I purchased a moisture meter for my wife and she has turned into a house plant expert. Before I gave her the moisture meter she was killing our houseplants because she was over watering them. Now before watering she uses the moisture meter to check each one. She now finds that she does not need to water as often as was thought. The houseplants are doing much better now since they are not being over watered.
You can do the same with your new tree, use your new moisture meter and you will find sometimes your tree does not need as much water as you thought, while other times you may find your tree needs water more often. Check the ground down to about 6 inches deep, or as deep as the meter will allow. Check close to the base of the tree then graduate to farther out from the tree.
You should notice a difference in moisture level as you move out from the trunk. Later when the roots spread out into the surrounding soil the moisture should be more uniform as the tree dries out after each watering.
Should you stake that new tree or not?
While some say you should not stake new trees, I recommend you always stake the tree with at least one stake and maybe 2 if you are in a windy location. I advocate staking the tree very well for the first year. I have always lived in windy locations so I really have no choice when it comes to staking new trees. After the first year the roots will have penetrated the soil and should be able to hold the tree upright on their own even in a strong wind.
If you are in a very windy location then do not remove the stakes after six months but extend the ties or ropes between the stakes and the tree, this will allow the wend to move the tree more but still give the extra support needed in high wind. You can do this if you’re like me and you don’t want to take any chances with your new tree.
Fertilizer, should you add it now when planting?
I do not advocate adding fertilizer for the first six months to one year when planting a tree. Think of it like this, would you give a person who was weak from recent illness large doses of human growth hormone? Nitrogen is like human growth hormone to a tree. The tree grows fast and needs lots of water as a result of the new growth. If the tree has not had a chance to develop a good root system then the first time your forget to water all the new growth dies. Let your new tree develop a proper root system before you ask it to grow at full speed. Your tree should be able to grow fine on its own for the first six months.
You should try and time your fertilizer addition to the seasons of the year. If after six months you’re going into fall add some low nitrogen fertilizer. If after six months you find that spring is upon you add regular fertilizer. Obviously, you can adjust these time frames to suit your situation and fertilize sometime between six months and one year. Do not fertilize in the middle of the summer as this can cause leaf burn and even the whole top of your tree to die as did happen to me.
I have managed to kill the top on my potted Japanese maples on my patio a few times before I learned not to fertilize during mid summer. Learn from my mistakes and fertilize only in the spring and the fall using timed release fertilizer. I use a brand sold at the Home Depot called dynamite, I think it’s a stupid name but it’s a great fertilizer. It’s a time release fertilizer that last for 6 to 8 months. What makes it better then other types? Two features – one it is timed release and 2, it contains micro nutrients needed by plants and trees. I use this and ad it 2 times per year, spring and fall.
Watch out for pests
The last recommendation I will make is to check your new tree for insect damage in the spring and summer. Aphids beetles and earwigs love new growth and new tender leaves. Check the new growth on your tree for signs of insect damage. If you find possible insect damage to new growth or leaves do more investigating until you find out what is eating your new tree. Take a close up digital photo of the damage then seek advice locally from a good nursery, county ag agent or agriculture cooperative on what kind of pesticide will best protect your tree and kill the pests that are chewing on it.
With just a little attention and watering your new tree will grow and your pride, enjoyment and home equity will grow right along with it.