Planting trees gets a lot of press, viagra deservedly so. Trees are helpful in so many ways. Trees do more than beautify the yard – they save money and energy. In summer, shade trees keep yards and houses cool; in winter, they protect against powerful, freezing winds. Trees clean the air, lower noise pollution, enhance property value, and provide a place for wildlife. Maybe paying $100 for a tree seems too much, until you consider that a long-lived hardwood will be providing all of these benefits for 30, 50, or even 100 years – a real bargain!
But like anything else around the house, a tree will need a little maintenance to stay its healthiest. What tree maintenance involves is a little knowledge and a little observation — both necessary traits for any gardener.
Before you buy your tree, always make sure of two things. First, find out exactly how tall and wide that tree will eventually get. Second, be honest about the space you’re preparing to plant it in. Get out a tape measure and make absolutely certain that your tree is going to fit. Look out for surrounding trees and for power lines. Remember that a silver maple sapling takes only eight or ten years to grow up into power lines. Always think 25 years into the future when you’re planting a tree.
Once you know that tree’s going to fit, dig a nice, big hole to plant your tree. Make sure that the hole is just the right depth for the tree’s roots by setting the potted tree into the hole occasionally as you dig, and lay your shovel handle across the top of the hole so you can see if the hole is deep enough for the tree.
When the hole is ready, take the tree’s root ball out of the pot. If you see any roots circling around and around in the root ball, cut them and spread them out in the hole. Pile in the dirt, mixing in some compost or other organic fertilizer, then give it about five gallons of water to settle the soil in.
After you plant your new tree, it will require an inch of water every week, whether from rainfall or from your garden hose. A slow trickle for an hour will give it the generous watering it likes.
Give the tree a good, thick layer of mulch, three inches thick and about five feet out from the trunk. Old, decayed leaves or wood chips are good. The mulch will keep those roots from having to compete with your lawn, and will keep the wild man on the lawnmower from scarring the tree’s trunk, which invites diseases into the tree.
Add compost to the circle around the tree every year before you apply more mulch. Compost will fertilize the tree, make the soil richer and looser, and attract earthworms that will further loosen and enrich the soil.
Be especially careful when applying broadleaf herbicide to your yard. Since the tree roots mingle with the grass roots, incorrect application of the herbicide can harm or even kill your tree.
If your tree catches a disease, take a sample of the affected leaves to your local University Extension center. The horticulturist there should be able to help you – and they’re not out to sell you anything. Or, call an arborist who is a member of the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA).
Remember: any arborist worth his salt will NEVER tell you to top a tree. Topping — removing all branches so all you have left is a trunk with stumps at the top — is the worst thing you can do to a tree.
Following these steps will keep your tree healthy for years to come.