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The Canopy 6-15-13

Notes from the City of Morris Tree Board

Tree Planting

Spring has finally arrived, some species of trees have been struggling to burst out in buds. Locusts, lindens, and maple all got hurt by an untimely frost last month. Spring is a traditional time to plant trees. Immediate gratification occurs when that empty yard space is filled. However, spring planting requires strong commitment and involvement. Making sure the tree receives 1" of water a week is essential, protecting the trunk from wandering lawn maintenance devices (string trimmers, mowers, etc.,) equally so. With that in mind, the best time to plant was last fall, early this spring, or this week. Once you have selected the right tree for the right place, get it off to a good start by planting it correctly.

Call before you dig. To check for underground utilities, call 811 or contact Gopher State One Call before you dig. There is no charge.

Plant at the right time. In Minnesota, bareroot trees should be planted when trees are dormant in the spring or fall. Containerized or balled and burlapped trees can be planted throughout the growing season, but avoid planting when it's hot, dry or windy. Always keep roots moist, in the shade, and protected until planting.

Dig a hole. Prepare a shallow, saucer-shaped hole that is three times wider than the rootball and no deeper than the height of the root ball, container, or root collar. Never dig the hole too deep; the trunk flare or root collar must be two or three inches higher than ground level. Score the sides and bottom of the hole to make it easier for roots to penetrate the soil.

Inspect the roots. Bare root trees must be kept moist, shaded and covered until they are placed in the hole. Prune away any broken or damaged roots. For containerized trees, if the roots have circled the pot, gently uncurl them so they are growing outward from the trunk, or score the rootball in three or four places with a sharp knife to encourage the roots to grow out into the new soil.

Place the tree in the hole. Gently lower the tree into the hole. The trunk flare or root collar must be two or three inches above the ground level. Err on the side of planting too high, rather than too deep.

For balled and burlapped trees, be sure to slash or cut away the burlap.

Backfill. Backfill the black topsoil into the hole a few inches at a time, firming the soil after each addition. Make sure the tree remains vertical. You can use water to settle the soil while backfilling.

Build a water basin. Form a ridge of soil around the edge of the hole to puddle and hold water around the plant. Water the tree well at planting and supply 15 to 25 gallons of water per week when a 1" natural rainfall hasn't occurred. DON'T OVERWATER. Allow the soil surface to dry to a depth of 1 to 2 inches between waterings.

In general do not stake trees! Staking should only be necessary on windy, exposed sites, and is not recommended. The trunk will grow stronger if not staked. Place two or three 4-foot stakes around the tree, about 10 inches from the trunk. Use only soft, pliable tree tape or rope around the trunk; never use wire, even if it's inside a hose. Remove the stakes within 6 to 12 months, so the trunk can strengthen properly.

Mulch. Cover the entire planting area with a 3 to 4-inch layer of wood chip mulch, but keep the material two inches away from the tree trunk to prevent moisture damage. Mulch keeps the topsoil temperate for root growth, reduces water loss, and helps keep weeds from sprouting.

Protect the trunk. In the late fall, the trunk of your newly-planted tree can be wrapped with a spiral of plastic or protected with hardware cloth to prevent sunscald and rodent damage. Wraps that trap moisture against the trunk should be removed immediately in the spring. During the mowing season, prevent equipment damage by placing a low guard or a circle of mulch around the base of the trunk.

Sources: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources: http://www.dnr.state.; "Plant a Better Future," Tree Trust of St. Paul, 2001; Tree