Big tree, small tree; fat tree, tall tree…

Big tree, small tree; fat tree, tall tree…

I know, I’m no Dr Suess, but he’s going to help me make a point. Diversity is the spice of life. And as plants go, it’s also healthy for the landscape. I’ve mentioned before that we’ve seriously overplanted the pears, perhaps also the maples. As they say, ”think outside the box.” Make your landscape unique!

Planting a tree is too often just an afterthought but it’s a major decision that has impact for your life and more! Give it some thought about what to plant and where to plant. It can be a big asset to your property or a giant liability depending on what and where you plant. Do you need shade, screening, wind protection or all the above? Get the right tree and put it in the best place to achieve your objective.

It’s funny, when a painter or photographer portrays a tree, it’s usually a gnarly looking thing. But when we go to buy a tree, most folks are looking for a “lollipop” shape. The most important thing about choosing a tree is to get the right species for the selected space. Trees will all grow and develop their natural shape in time and the species will usually remain typical to its gene type. When talking to folks about planting trees I commonly hear, “we’ve got to get a big tree because we don’t have time to wait for a little one to grow”. Well you might be surprised to hear that a small tree will get established a lot quicker than a large tree and could actually outgrow it after a few years. The rule of thumb is that it takes a transplanted tree 1 year for its roots to recover for each inch of trunk caliper. So….. a 1 inch tree might start growing vigorously after a year but a 5 inch tree might sit there for 5 years before sending out strong new growth. Getting your new trees established after transplanting is the key. Once the tree has sent roots into the ground it is “off to the races”. It takes years for bugs or disease to kill an established tree, but over or underwatering a newly planted tree can kill it in just weeks.

A few words about proper planting procedure might be appropriate here. In central Ohio with our heavy clay, the worst thing to do is to plant too deep. Make sure the top of the root mass (ball or pot) is about 1 inch higher than the surrounding ground. This will allow surface water to run off and not drown the roots in the hole. To illustrate this, just dig a hole in our clay and fill it up with water. That water will sit there for days. Container grown plants have a very porous soil so if that root mass is in that impervious hole the pore spaces will quickly fill up with water. Overwatering is a bigger problem around here that underwatering for newly planted trees. You should water your newly planted trees only about once a week. But when you do, it should be a slow, deep soaking that penetrates to the bottom of the hole. Then give it about a week for that water to drain away and encourage your new tree to send roots out seeking water on their own. Once that tree is established………… stand back while it springs to life!

Is it too late to plant a tree now? It depends on the weather. If you can dig a hole in the ground, you can plant a tree!