Finding The Best Trees to Plant for Any Space
Not every tree is a good fit for every yard or garden. When choosing a tree for your yard, you want to think of the condition of your soil, the climate you live in and amount of space you have. It's also a good idea to think about the role you want the tree to play. Some are better suited for providing shade, others can act as a privacy screen. The best tree for your yard will live for many years, keeping you happy in the meantime.
Primer on Planting Trees
Planting a tree in your yard or garden gives you some shade, some color and can provide you with food, if you've planted a fruit tree. The actual process of planting a tree in the ground isn't terribly difficult. There are some things you want to keep in mind to ensure that your tree has a healthy, long life.
First, timing is important when planting a tree. Usually, it's recommended that you plant trees in either the early spring or in the early fall. You don't want to plant over the winter, since the ground is usually frozen solid and the temperature is too cold in many areas.
You'll want to plant in the fall if you live in a warmer area, usually between zones 4 and 10. Planting in the fall will give your new tree's roots time to get settled in before the chill of winter sets in. When you plant in the fall, your tree won't have to endure the heat of summer during its first year of life.
If you live in a colder area, such as in USDA zones 1 through 3, planting in the spring is often the way to go, according to HouseLogic. If you wait until fall, your tree might not have time to settle in before the cold weather strikes and it might not survive the winter. Planting in spring gives it plenty of time to adjust and acclimate to its new home. Since summers are cooler in zones 1, 2, and 3, you won't have to worry about high heat destroying your new tree.
How to Plant a Tree
Usually, new trees come in three formats. They can be in a container, their root ball can be wrapped in burlap or they can be bare root, meaning their roots are left exposed to the world.
The format your tree comes in determines how you plant it. For example, if you are planting a bare root tree, you'll want to soak its roots in water for up to six hours before planting, according to the National Arbor Day Foundation.
As the roots soak, dig a hole in the ground. The hole shouldn't be deeper than the roots, but it should be at least two or three times as wide. Once your tree is finished soaking, place it in the hole, then start filling in with soil.
Make sure the tree stays upright as you plant. You might want to have a helper hold the tree while you fill the hole with soil. You want to press down on the soil lightly as you fill it in, but don't compact it or put too much pressure on it.
The hole you dig for a tree in a container or for a tree that is covered in burlap should be shaped like a saucer. You want it to be as deep in the center as the root ball itself and shallower along the perimeter. Ideally, the hole will be about three times the width of the root ball.
Carefully remove the tree from its container or take the burlap off of its roots. Don't yank on the trunk of the tree when removing it, as doing so might tear it free of its roots. If the roots are compacted, you might have slice them vertically so that they can begin to spread and grow once planted in the ground.
Place the root ball in the center of the hole, then start filling it in with soil. Remember to keep the tree perfectly upright and straight as you fill the hole. Don't plant the tree too deep. The soil shouldn't come up above its root flare, which is the slightly angled area where the tree trunk connects to the roots.
Whether you planted a bare root, container, or burlapped tree, you want to be sure to create a mound of soil along the edge of the root ball, to help water reach the roots. Create a 3-inch tall heap of soil around the perimeter of the root ball, then fill in the area with several inches of mulch.
Watering and Feeding Your Tree
Water is must a right after planting, food isn't. In fact, Better Homes & Gardens recommends waiting a full year after planting before you give your tree any fertilizer.
According to Clemson University Extension, your newly planted tree needs two gallons of water for every inch of trunk thickness. Start out by watering your tree every day. After the first two weeks, you can cut back to watering every other day. After about two months, you can start watering just once a week.
The video above from the Arbor Day Foundation walks you through the process of planting a tree from a container. It also shows you how to prepare the roots before planting and how to prepare the soil around the tree for watering.
Why Choosing the Right Tree is Important
You don't want to pick just any old tree for your yard or garden. Like all plants, some trees are better suited for some parts of the world than they are for others. For example, if you live in an area with freezing winters, a warmth loving citrus tree isn't going to make it planted in your yard. Some trees are also sensitive to heat and high temperatures and might suffer in your garden if your area gets very hot summers.
Another thing to consider when picking a tree is the size of the tree. You don't just want to look at the maximum height and width of a tree, but also at how large its roots will get under ground. Some trees have very large and extensive root systems. They'll quickly crowd out other plants in your garden.
Additionally, some trees have lots of roots near the surface of the soil. That can be perfectly fine if you plant the tree on the edge of your yard, near a wooded or grassy area. But if you plant the tree near a sidewalk or pavement, its roots can ultimately break up the pavement and can create a tripping hazard.
Different trees can play different roles in your yard. For example, evergreen trees don't drop their leaves in the fall, so they stay full all year around. Planted in a row, they usually make good privacy walls, separating your garden from your neighbor's.
A fruit tree can add some color and beauty to your yard in the spring, when its flowers bloom. Later on in the year, it can give you a sweet snack, in the form of fruit. Trees that have tall, wide canopies are a great pick if your yard is very sunny and you'd like to cool it off with some natural shade.
How to Spot the Best Tree
It's not just the type of tree you choose that matters. It's also how healthy that tree is. There are a few ways to know if the tree you're about to bring home from a garden center is healthy and will do well after being transplanted to your garden.
There are three areas to look at when inspecting at tree. If the tree has leaves, check them to make sure they aren't pale green in color and to make sure that they don't have spots or other signs of stress. You want to pass on a tree with spotted, curled under or otherwise sickly looking leaves.
Also take a peek at the bark of the tree. It should be a relatively uniform color and generally healthy looking. You don't want bark that's peeling off of the tree or that has gashes in it.
Finally, take a look at the roots of the tree. If the tree is a bare root tree, the roots should be moist. They should be plentiful and nearly as long as the stem of the tree.
The roots of a tree in a container shouldn't be creeping out of the top of the pot or out from the drainage holes in the bottom. If they are, that's a sign the the tree is rootbound and too large for its container.
Another way to see if a container tree is healthy is to gently grab the trunk near the soil and give it a wiggle. According to the University of Nebraska, a healthy tree will be one with the rootball and container. It won't make a hole in the dirt when you try to move the tree.
Equipment You'll Need
When it's time to plant a tree, you'll need more than just a tree to get the job done. A shovel is a must for making a hole in the ground. You can also use a rototiller to make quick work of the job of digging a hole.
You might want to invest in a wheelbarrow to hold the soil from the ground and to help you fill in the hole with ease after planting the tree. A hose will make it easier to give the tree the water it needs, rather than having to constantly fill up a watering can and make many trips back and forth.
You'll also want a set of stakes to support the tree during its first year of growth. Two wooden stakes driven into the ground beside the tree and attached to it with string will help the tree grow up straight and tall.
Want to learn more about choosing the best trees to plant? We have lots of information on the subject. Before you head to a garden center, take a look at the articles on the sidebar and learn everything you need to about planting trees.
Did you know?
There are roughly 422 trees for every person on earth.
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Source for fact: Nature