Trunkline Magazine (Louisville Zoo) March 2019 - Page 15

GARDEN TALK A Good Time to Plant a Tree By Matt Lahm, Assistant Curator of Education What better way to celebrate Earth Month than by planting a tree? Planting a tree should be thought of as a lifelong investment; how well your investment grows depends on selecting the tree species that’s right for you and proper care during and after planting. Ideally, trees should be planted during the dormant season: late fall after leaf drop or early spring before budbreak. However, healthy balled, burlapped or container trees can be planted throughout the growing season if given the proper care. Here is our 11-step process to help your new tree get established and thrive! 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Select a suitable species for the location. Before you dig, follow the LG&E and KU Right Tree, Right Place guidelines and call 811 or visit kentucky811. org to ensure you’ve located all underground utilities to avoid future issues. Find the base of the tree trunk and remove excess soil from the top of the root ball so that it will be partially visible after the tree is planted. This will give a more accurate height of the root ball to determine how deep to dig your hole. Dig a shallow, wide planting hole. The hole should be 2 – 3 times wider than the root ball, yet only as deep as the root ball is tall. This assists with breaking up the surrounding soil for new roots to grow into. Before planting, cut and remove any plastic containers, wire baskets and rope, especially if they are encircling the trunk. Straighten or prune any roots that are wrapped around the root ball if it was in a container. Lay down the tree and prune any cross branching, branches growing inward toward the trunk or damaged limbs. Set the tree at the proper depth. Most tree roots are found within the first 12 – 14 inches of soil. Planting a tree too deep is one of the most common mistakes made. It’s better to plant the tree with the base of the trunk at grade level or 1 – 2 inches above grade. If the tree is planted too deep, the newly developing roots will have difficulty growing due to the lack of oxygen. 6. 7. 8. 9. Before backfilling, straighten the tree in the hole. Use of a level can be helpful on hillsides. Backfill the hole with soil and press firmly. You can use the original soil, but if it’s mostly clay soil, backfilling with good organic topsoil is best. remove any fabric or plastic wrapping on the root ball. Firmly pack the soil around the root ball to eliminate any air pockets that will dry out the roots or cause the soil to settle unexpectedly and the tree to lean. Do not fertilize the tree at this time. Light watering can be done and will assist in reducing air pockets. Stake the tree if necessary. Use two opposing stakes with wide, flexible material that won’t injure the bark. When wrapping the material around the tree, avoid encircling the trunk and only wrap each piece of material around once. Apply a mulch around the base of the tree. When mulching, less is more! Mulch is beneficial for trees as it helps retain soil moisture and avoid drying, keeps roots from overheating and helps minimize competition with other plants. Only about 2 inches of good organic mulch is needed. Piling mulch up against the trunk of the tree, creating a “mulch volcano” can be detrimental to your tree by limiting available oxygen. Retaining too much moisture may cause root rot and decay the living bark. 10. Follow up care: water enough to only keep the soil moist, not wet. Prune and fertilize after the first growing season if needed. 11. Enjoy your new tree! A special thanks to the LG&E and KU Foundation for supporting the Zoo's commitment to tree planting and preservation of wildlife habitat. Louisville Zoo Trunkline • Spring 2019 • 15