I spent part of last weekend
digging out two-year-old birch clumps that didn't survive the conditions in our
backyard. It was disheartening, but I guess on the upside, a good learning
experience. The first lesson I learned: Wishful thinking isn't enough to grow
trees. My wife and I love birch clumps, but obviously they don't love our yard.
So if you want a shade tree to flourish, choose one that is sure to grow in
your soil and moisture conditions.
Thinking back on the planting and care of the birch clumps,
I wasn't sure I had followed all of my own advice. So before I planted the new
trees, I reread an article I wrote several years ago about how to plant a shade
tree. Here are the key points for success in planting a new shade tree—points
that I'm going to follow this time:
1) Don't plant the tree too
deep. At the base of the trunk, near the roots, is a spot where the trunk is
enlarged. This is called the trunk flare. Plant the tree so the top of the
trunk flare is above the soil level.
2) Slice encircling roots. If, after removing
the root ball from the pot or burlap ball, you see that the roots are wrapping
around the root ball, slice them vertically with a utility knife. This will help prevent the roots from
strangling the plant later.
3)Refill the hole with the
same soil you removed. Surrounding your tree with compost or enriched soil will
only encourage the roots to stay close to the tree.
4)Water frequently, but with
less water. Here's the formula. Measure the diameter of the trunk and multiply by 2 to
arrive at the number of gallons of water to use. Water every day with this
amount for the first two weeks. Then water every two or three days for the next
two months. After that, water once or twice a week for the next 12 to 18
months. Use less water and water less often if you have soil that drains poorly.
Overwatering is harmful too. A simple test is to simply stick your finger into
the soil near the tree. If it's saturated, don't water.
If you have clay soil, ask
your nursery for help. There are special planting and watering methods you
should follow to ensure successful shade tree planting in clay soil.
— Jeff Gorton, Associate
Of course, you don't have to
wait for a tree to grow to get backyard shade. For projects that will give you
backyard shade right away, check out these links:
How to Build a Pergola
How to Shade Your Deck or Patio
How to Build an Outdoor Living Room
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