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Posts Tagged ‘Planting trees’

Watching television is an endurance test, not for me, but for my spouse.  At any moment, the drone from the box will be split by an ear shattering “WHAT?” followed by my going on a five minute tirade whenever a commercial for a big box store comes on.  The 30-second ad gives me more of an aerobic workout than I get all day, what with my flailing arms, leaps from the sitting position, and fast march back and forth in front of the set.

The big box store, eager to cash in on gardeners’ enthusiasm for planting, has a chirpy commercial touting their expertise in plants, potting soil, and everything else to make your garden bloom.  Ahh, but the savvy gardener rises up in horror when the ad shows a tree plucked from its pot and plomped in the ground, not because the tree is planted, but how.

The three-second scene shows a man grabbing the tree by the trunk in order to lift it from its pot, which proves that the fellow doing this is an actor, not a gardener.  A gardener knows this is a no-no.  Grabbing the tree by the trunk to lift the heavy root ball from the pot puts the tree at risk of damage to the bark, which is sensitive in spring growth.

A good way to handle a containerized tree at planting is to dig your planting hole (which should be three times the width of the container, and the same depth as the root ball), then gently lay the containerized tree on its side.  Slide the tree from the container by tapping lightly on the sides of the container to get it to loosen away from the root ball.  Then set the tree upright and lift it from below the root ball to set it gently into place.  Score the sides of the root ball to cut any circling roots, then backfill the hole.

The ad doesn’t show this, so when it comes on, I lean forward, unable to look away from the flagrant foul the store commits.  Shrieking that the ad should have a “do not try this at home,” disclaimer, the diatribe begins anew.

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A buddy of mine, Alison O’Connor, is a graduate student at Colorado State University.  She’s working on her Phd. in horticulture, and as part of her research, she had to plant 27 trees today.  Playing in the mud is always preferable to pushing paper on a desk, so a bunch of us went over to give her a hand. 

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The trees needed to be planted as correctly as possible, and Alison offered us a refresher on proper planting techniques.  Planted too low or to high, and the tree suffers, unable to root out  to support the 100-year lifespan. 

If you’re popping a tree into the ground this fall, brush up your skills by following her step by step advice:

Measure the height of the root ball to determine depth of planting hole, which should be one to two- inches shorter than the root ball.

Dig saucer-shaped planting hole, three-times the root ball width.  Straight sides limit root expansion, so to get your tree off to a fast start, slope the sides of the hole.  We had straigh holes dug with an augur, then sloped the sides with a shovel.

 Remove tree from container, clip any girdling roots, score the rootball, then set tree in place.  The “knees” of the rootball – the top edge of the soil – must be about two inches above the planting hole. 

If your tree has a “dogleg” from grafting (a curve in the trunk just above the graft), turn the rootball so the inside curve faces north.  This helps that sensitive spot avoid sunscald.

Pack soil around lower third of rootball, to help stabilize it.  then backfill the rest of the hole, leaving soil loose.

Water the planting area.

Mulch the tree.

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