This is a great time to plant evergreen trees. Here are some quick tips to make sure you find the right trees for your property.
This is by far the number one mistake I see: trees planted literally 1 foot from the foundation and directly under the eaves of the house. Think looooong term! Give that tree the best life it could possibly have and plant it with its full size in mind. Remember, most nursery tags only tell you what the tree will grow to in 10 years. Think 15-20 years out and add a few more feet to that tag. If you still aren’t sure, do an online search to look up mature tree sizes before you buy that cute little 2 gallon golden mop cypress (that’ll grow to 6 feet tall and wide!). If the tree can get 10 feet across, then measure a 10 foot circle on the ground and plant it in the middle. It’s tempting to cram trees together to ‘fill in the space’, but this will only lead to overcrowding and money out of your pocket book for trimming or removal in the future. To have a new tree look at home while it’s growing to its mature size, plant perennials or shrubs that are easily removed as the tree starts to grow.
Location, Location, Location
How does the tree grow in nature? Does it like shade or sun? Does it like wetter soil? Or dry conditions? Can it tolerate being planted next to a sidewalk that is hot in the summer and salted in the winter? How fast does it grow? You wouldn’t plant a bristlecone pine for shade when it only grows 3 inches a year, and likewise you wouldn’t plant a water and shade loving hemlock in a dry open prairie! And you wouldn’t plant a 20 foot wide tree in a 10 foot yard! Remember, a tree will grow up and down! Are you planting those roots over your sewer or electrical line? Don’t forget to look up too! Are there power lines overhead or a porch awning? Call 811 first for safety!
Depth of the hole and correct planting is vital for survival. Dig a hole at least a foot deeper and twice as wide as the pot. Although it is recommended to amend the soil, don’t overcompensate by placing your evergreen into rich composted material. You want to encourage your tree to stretch those roots down into the ground as deep as possible. A tree will not anchor itself into the ground if the soil it was planted in is too soft and yummy. The roots will simply spin around and around in the hole until one day a wind storm blows it over, or worse, the soil will retain too much water and rot the roots away! So amend the soil of your new baby by adding only 1/3 of a bag of potting mix in with 2/3 of the native soil. First, water the hole and allow it to drain before planting your tree. Next, tease out some roots or even cut a giant X across the bottom of the root ball with a knife to encourage new root growth. Pile in a good 10-12 inches of the mixed soil first before placing in your tree. Check the depth of the tree before you start filling in with the soil. Too high and exposed roots will dry out, or too deep and the trunk will rot and the tree will die. Firmly pack the soil as you plant, and if necessary add water to dry soil. Then finish with a good heavy watering. Seaweed fertilizer or B1 Transplanting solution is recommended but not necessary if you planted with potting mix in the fall. Less is best when it comes to evergreens and fertilizer! Happy Gardening!
Photo by Taylor Rooney