Now that you have picked out the bees knees of trees for your next planting project, here are a few tips to ensure a long healthy life for your beloved tree.
Don’t plant too deep! By this I mean plant it high, so high it looks like it is planted almost too high. Trust me, things will settle more than you think, no matter what kind of soil you plant in. Just scuff the ground with your foot, set the root ball in the scuff, and backfill from there.
Don’t stake your tree unless you ABSOLUTELY have to. Staked rigidly, the tree finds no desire to build caliper and reaction wood to properly support itself. Like an arm in a cast, it atrophies and “goes limp”. Remember, “the stronger the breeze, the stronger the trees”.
Don’t over-do the fertilizer. Try to keep the numbers on one hand, like 4-3-2 or the like, and use slow, organic types typically found in “poultry exhaust”. High numbers will turn your tree into a “junkie” of sorts and can produce an excessive flush of growth that is a drain to the reserves that the tree needs to rev up when it comes out of dormancy.
NEVER, and I mean NEVER, top your tree! Unless done by someone who really knows what they are doing, and for a very few drastic reasons in the most extreme of circumstances, this will screw up your tree for life. This all goes out the window in the case of fruit tree management, but that is a discussion for a different day.
Don’t plant a columnar species with overhead obstructions such as eaves, power lines, etc. You will then have to top your tree!
Correct the encircling or girdling root issues at the moment of planting, if you wait to long, I can’t fix it. Inspect before you buy!
Water AWAY from the stem or root collar. Irrigate right around the edge of the root system and move out from there. As the tree grows, the irrigation regime should change with it. Water infrequent and deep, you want moist, not soggy, or powder dry! Use a soil probe or core sampler for this, the little moisture meter thingies are more suited to potted plants, than trees in a landscape setting.
Don’t forget to mulch. Mulch should be applied where you want roots to grow! If you apply too deep, just rake it out a little; it will be just fine in the long run. How far out from the trunk is too far? When mulching, there is no such thing, but keep organic materiel away from the stem and root collar at all costs.
Never inject ANYTHING into the trunk of your tree, or let anyone talk you into this practice. Remember, we are trying to keep injuries off of the stem whenever possible. The same goes for “growth regulators”, I don’t understand why this abhorrent practice is even used any more.
Don’t forget to protect the trunk from the scalding rays of the sun. Use some form of protection on the southwest side of the stem. This will be needed until the canopy gets big enough to shade the stem throughout the hot afternoon hours.
Don’t forget to give your tree a hug at least twice a week, this costs nothing and the results are amazing!