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Tree Basics 

Good Gardening Practices for Raising Trees 

Planting Depth

Trees do not tolerate any changes in grade. They are meant to planted at a certain level on their tree trunk. Planting them at a higher or lower level will result in a weaker tree that is more susceptible to disease and pest infestation.

Mulching

Do not let mulch touch the tree trunk. We recommend that all mulch be applied to the area around the trunk but kept several inches from it. The mulch causes the bark to stay moist which invites insects and disease.

Soil Compaction

Soil compaction caused by heavy equipment injures the root system by decreasing the air supply. Tree roots need water and air. If heavy equipment was used within a foot of the drip line or in the drip line use a soil aerator like the ones used for lawns.

Tree Topping

Do not top trees. Topping is never good under any circumstances. The leaves of a tree turn sunlight into food, if you cut off the leaves you starve the tree. Do not be fooled by the tree’s appearance. It takes 3 years for stress to show on a tree and by then it is too late. Trees have a reserve of energy that can last for that period of time, but then decline in health starts to show.

Root Area

Remember that most of the feeder roots of the tree exist in the top two feet of soil extending a foot past the drip line of the tree. This is useful information when fertilzing and watering your trees.

How to “baby” a Stressed Tree

What you can do to ‘baby’ your tree for a 2 to 3 year period:

  1. Do not plant grass under the drip line, the grass will compete for water.
  2. Mulch it with 1 inch of mulch, do not apply 3 to 4 inches. (Roundup can be used to keep weeds down)
  3. Keep the tree watered under dry conditions.
  4. Apply a small amount of 12-12-12 fertilizer all throughout the drip line in March and November.

Yellow Leaves on Oaks

Oak trees grown in alkaline conditions develop iron chlorosis (leaves turn yellow and drop) because they can not absorb iron from the alkaline soil. Oaks prefer a slightly acidic soil. If your oak tree has yellow leaves, test the soil pH. If it is alkaline, it should be treated with a soil acidifier such as aluminum sulfate. Trees near sidewalks suffer from this condition because lime leaches from the concrete causing the soil to become more alkaline.

Staking Newly Planted Trees

Staking a tree helps it to remain upright until its roots take hold. This is generally a year. The tree should not be held rigid, it should be allowed to sway a little with the wind. This will make it stronger. The string should be secured on the tree with something that keeps it from digging into the bark, such as a piece of hose. Remember to remove the staking in a year. Waiting too long will cause injury to the tree.

Wrapping Trees

Wrapping should not be left on year round. As the tree grows it needs room and the wrap becomes restrictive. Wrapping should be done in the fall on young trees that are in danger of being nibbled on by rabbits or varieties such as flowering crab which can suffer from sun scold. A crack in the outer bark of the tree is caused due to cold temperatures and warming sun. The wrap protects the young bark from the sun’s rays.

Pruning Shade Trees

It’s generally less complicated than pruning ornamentals; shade trees are better behaved. Shade trees usually need to be limbed up. It’s not just to get branches out of the way of the mower, but also because the very lowest branches have a tendency to be weak and spindly. With shade trees you take out the broken and the diseased and then cut for balance and overall shape. Each individual shade tree has a unique shape (unlike ornamentals which are generally round or oval) which it is healthiest to maintain.

Pruning Ornamental Trees

Remove any suckers fron the base of the tree. Remove any water sprouts growing on the branches. These are stems that grow straight up on the upper side of the branch. Remove any damaged branches. Remove branches that cross and touch another branch. As these will grow into each other causing injury. Remove branches that cross over from one side of the tree to the other. After all that is finished remove branches with the idea in mind that light is being allowed to enter the tree. Do not remove any more that a third of the tree each year.

Trees Worthy of Adding To Your Landscape 
By Chad Franer of the IMA

  • Acer griseum Paperbark Maple
  • Amelanchier arborea Downy Serviceberry
  • Betula nigra River Birch
  • Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Pendula’ Weeping Katsura
  • Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Filifera Aurea’ Japanese False Cypress
  • Chionanthus virginicus White Fringetree
  • Cladrastis kentukea American Yellowwood
  • Cornus kousa Kousa Dogwood
  • Cornus mas Cornelian Cherry Dogwood
  • Crataegus crusgalli var. inermis Thornless Hawthorn
  • Fagus grandifolia American Beech
  • Fagus sylvatica European Beech
  • Hammelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’ Witchhazel
  • Ilex opaca American Holly
  • Koelreuteria paniculata Panicled Golden Raintree
  • Magnolia virginiana Sweetbay Magnolia
  • Malus ‘Profusion’, ‘Red Jade’, ‘Prairiefire’ Crabapple
  • Metasequoia glyptostroboides Dawn Redwood
  • Morus alba Common Mulberry
  • Parrotia persica Persian Parrotia
  • Pinus bungeana Lacebark Pine
  • Pinus densiflora ‘Umbraculifera’ Umbrella Pine
  • Pinus densiflora ‘Oculus Draconis’ Dragon’s Eye Pine
  • Pinus koraiensis Korean Pine
  • Pinus strobus ‘Pendula’ Weeping White Pine
  • Pyrus calleryana ‘Aristocrat’ , ‘Cleveland Select’ Callery Pear  (added to invasive species list)
  • Salix alba ‘Britzensis’ (‘Chermesina’) Willow
  • Stewartia pseudocamellia Japanese Stewartia
  • Tilia cordata Littleleaf Linden
  • Tsuga canadensis ‘Sargentii’ Canadian Hemlock
  • Ulmus parvifolia Lacebark Elm 

Fantastic Foliage

(Country Living Gardener, October 2001)

If you don’t have time to venture on a scenic drive this season, plant the following shrubs for spectacular autumn color in your own garden.

Name Fall Color Hardy to Zone
Shadblow serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis) yellow, gold

4

Black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) red-brown to purple-black

3

Rockspray cotoneaster (Cotoneaster horizontalis) dark red

5

Redvein enkianthus (Enkianthus campanulatus) yellow, orange, bright scarlet

4

Compact burning bush (Euonymus alatus ‘Compactus’)

(added to invasive species list)

bright red

4

Dwarf fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii) yellow, orange, scarlet

5

Highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) red

3

European cranberrybush (Viburnum opulus) yellow-red, reddish-purple

3

Tree Owner’s Manual

for the Northeastern and Midwestern United States

One common issue facing our urban forests is the fact that trees are dying prematurely. Many are planted improperly, setting them up for failure. Many do not receive regular maintenance. And few are adequately protected during construction projects. To help remedy this issue, the Forest Service has created this Tree Owner’s Manual.