Since 1929,thousands of trees at the National Arboretum in Washington,D.C. have been thriving,said Scott Aker,a horticulturist employed at the arboretum. All of these trees survive under the care of only about 25 employees. And Aker said choosing,planting and caring for a tree of your own is a simple feat.
“People can plant their own trees,it’s not rocket science,” he said.
The first step in choosing a tree requires some research,said Aker. Soon-to-be tree-huggers can avoid barking up the wrong tree by taking a few factors into account.
Size of the prospective tree obviously should be considered. Trees can vary greatly in size,and the yard a tree will be placed in is often a deciding factor.
The tree’s function also may be a priority. While some are longing for a tree that provides shade,others merely need some simple landscaping or a screen to block out the neighbors.
Other factors in tree choice are soil type and region. Certain trees thrive in different climates and different soil types,said Aker. Doing your research will result in a tree that can survive in your yard. Though the red maple probably is the most popular tree in the United States,Aker said he recommends using a little creativity and choosing a unique tree.
Size does matter when it comes to planting your tree. Take into account that a tree larger than one to two inches in diameter will have a hard time adjusting to its new home.
“People have a desire to plant a large tree,” said Aker. “We’re Americans,we want instant trees.”
Trees can be purchased at a young age – as seedlings,or slightly larger,in pots or burlap wraps. If you do purchase a tree in a pot,it’s important to loosen the dirt and roots after you remove the tree from the pot,before planting it. Skipping this step could result in “girdling,” where the roots continue to grow in a circular pattern close to the base of the tree. Girdling can result in severe damage to the tree.
Congratulations,you’ve reached digging day. Though tree-planters were formerly advised to dig a hole twice as deep as the trees roots,Aker had a different piece of advice.
“It’s better to loosen soil in a broad,wide area,rather than dig a deep hole,” he said.
Aker recommends digging a hole as wide as the roots. After the hole has been dug,loosen soil around the hole. This will help the roots acclimate to the soil.
Aker cautions that the tree does not need to be planted very deeply,because it will sink over time. “You should,at all times,be able to see the flare where the roots go into the ground,it shouldn’t go into the ground like a telephone pole,” he said. Good news for those who aren’t big on hole-digging. Keep this in mind and you’ll soon be taking a break in the shade.
The best advice when it comes to taking care of a tree? Leave it alone.
Aker said the biggest tree-killer is,by far,root damage by the owner. And tree-maintenance is mostly for the birds.
“When large trees die,root damage is far more common than bugs and disease,” said Aker. “We should remember that trees in the forest get along fine without mulch,extra water,etc…”
Trees generally do not require water in addition to the amount they get from Mother Nature,except in times of draught,said Aker. Fertilizer and mulch are in the same category.
“By and large,just leave it alone,” he said. “Prune out dead branches for safety purposes and try not to disturb the root system.”
Several factors can be at the root of a root problem.
– Compacted soil can cut off the necessary oxygen supply to a tree’s roots. One common culprit of soil-crunching? A car parked under your tree.
– Digging can seriously damage roots as well. For example,planting a cable line or new drainage line can cut into tree roots and eventually result in the death of the tree.
– Certain trees,naturally prone to having shallow roots,lose oxygen and die when they are covered by thick flower beds .
– Some herbicides designed to kill the roots of weeds can have a devastating effect on the tree’s root system. Dicamba is one example of a root-killing herbicide that could damage a tree if misplaced.
– “Mulch volcanoes” are yet another culprit. “People think some mulch is good,so more mulch must be better,” said Aker. But too much mulch can cut the roots off from water and oxygen.
Though several factors can disrupt a tree’s root system,one of those things is not other trees. Trees can coexist near one another without causing damage. Aker said he recommends planting a small tree near an older tree,so the area will not be left vacant when the tree dies.
Whether your tree is for shade,or a barrier for air,sound or pollution,or a habitat for birds and wildlife,it is a value to the owner and the property,said Aker.
“If you plant a tree,you’re not just planting for you’re lifetime,you’re planting for prosperity,” he said.