“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” – Peter F. Drucker
Last time, I gave some suggestions on how to pick out decent trees at the nursery. In that article, I also gave a suggestion or two on how to properly plant those trees. Today, I going to suggest you skip some tree planting mistakes that are sometimes recommended.
Tree Planting Mistake #1– Prune branches to balance the crown with the roots
For some reason, people think since a tree’s roots were cut for transplanting, you need to chop off an equal amount of branches. This makes sense. However, it is as WRONG as a Green Bay Packer “Big Game”, ah screw it, Super bowl victory. Go ahead sue me Goodell!
The reason is that the leaves that grow from those branches create the “energy” that the tree needs to regrow its roots. If you remove the branches, you remove the trees ability to fuel its regrowth. So instead, leave all the branches except dead or diseased ones when planting the tree. You can prune the tree for shape and structure next year.
Tree Planting Mistake #2 – Amend the backfill soil with organic matter
You may have heard the old adage to “dig a ten dollar hole for a one dollar plant.” Adding organic matter to a planting hole sounds like a good way to finish off that ten dollar hole. Adding compost or peat moss does improve the soil by increasing the amount of air, water and nutrients it can hold.
The problem is it only does it within the planting hole. What happens when the roots outgrow the planting hole you dug? Well, they hit the boundary between the planting hole and the unamended soil.
Since the native soil is denser, the tree roots then react in the same way as they do in containers when they hit the side. They circle the edge of the boundary and grow back into that friendlier environment of the planting hole. The tree roots do not establish in the native soil, ultimately resulting in stunted growth and tree decline. Instead:
- Select plant species that tolerate the existing soil
- Use the existing soils for backfill without amendment
- If the soil is really bad, you can replace the entire planting site with topsoil
- Mulch the tree with organic mulch such as shredded bark to gradually improve the soil condition of the entire mulched area
Tree Planting Mistake #3- Lots of mulch is a good thing
Don’t volcano that tree! This tree planting mistake is made when mulching trees by piling too much mulch up against the tree trunk. This creates a great hiding spot for critters to live in the winter and chew on the bark of the tree. It also creates a wet environment that is favorable to disease and insects.
The other tree planting mistake that can be made with mulch is by adding too much. You should only apply a couple inches of mulch and only replace that when breaks down. More than that and the tree will grow roots into the mulch. Then the roots get stressed or die when the mulch dries out in the summer heat.
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