How to select and plant the perfect tree

Like building a house, planting a tree takes research and planning or the investment can come tumbling down.

 

But if selected, sited and planted correctly, a tree bestows a lifetime of enjoyment and value.

“Now is an ideal time to plant trees in western Oregon,” said Paul Ries, an urban and community forestry specialist for OSU Extension. “Planting in winter allows the tree to get watered into the landscape and get a good start for the rest of the year.”

“It comes down to the appropriate species selection for the location,” he explained. “You’ve got to give them room to grow. Don’t just pick a tree because it’s pretty and then decide where to plant it. That will get you into trouble in the future because it’s too big for the site or in soil that’s too dry or too wet or otherwise inappropriate.”

The motivations for buying a tree are many; the benefits, also.

“Typically people think to buy a tree for a specific reason,” said “It can be shade, fall color, flowers. But the amazing thing is that trees never just give the benefits you plant them for.”

One advantage people often don’t consider is the increased value trees bring to their property. Research shows that a house with trees is worth 7 to 20 percent more than a similar one next door without trees, according to Ries. The money saved on heating and cooling can be significant, too. A well-planted shade tree blocks sun in summer to cool a home, while allowing in winter sun to heat the house.

“You’re planting money,” he said. “If people understood that, they would be planting trees all the time.”

Aesthetics and savings aren’t the only reasons to add a tree to your property, however. Hardworking trees help prevent flooding by intercepting rainwater and slowing it down. They also clean the air by removing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. Conifers provide wind breaks.

For all of those reasons, Ries encourages a well-planned investment in a tree and offers advice on how to plant it.

  • Dig a hole that’s two to three times the width of the tree’s root ball, but only deep enough for the root ball to sit 1 to 2 inches above the ground. A wide hole will allow better root growth and is especially important in compacted soil. The hole should be the same width at the top and bottom.
  • Use a shovel or other tool to roughen the sides of the hole, which will allow roots to grow into surrounding soil and discourage girdling. Remove any roots or debris.
  • Be sure to remove twine from trees wrapped in burlap.
  • Tamp down soil in the bottom of the hole. Place tree in the hole, making sure it sits above ground by at least 2 inches to allow for settling. The biggest mistake people make, Ries noted, is to plant a tree too deep.
  • Fill in hole with the soil you dug from it supplementing that with a simple planting mix such as Lane Forest Products Frugal Mix.
  • Mulch around tree, keeping mulch away from the top of the root ball.

Most trees don’t need to be staked because young trees left to stand alone develop a stronger trunk. But an especially weak tree or one planted in a windy area will need to be staked for the first six months to a year. Use two stakes and straps or hose. Don’t use wire, which will cut through the bark. Always remember to remove the stakes and ties.

To help people succeed, Oregon State University Extension Service has introduced a slick, new app for iOS and Android users called Selecting, Planting and Caring for a New Tree. The free app hits your tablets just as tree-planting season gets serious. Homeowners without tablets aren’t left behind. A downloadable publication – also free – is available, too. The “A New Tree” app, as it’s known for short, will give you everything you need to know in a touch of the finger to choose and care for a tree and, perhaps most importantly, how to match one to your site. It’s a matter of “right tree, right place,” Ries said. You can download the free app or the document here.

The easy-to-navigate app offers ideas in a series of lists that include trees for water conservation, tough sites, energy conservation, under utility wires, the Oregon coast, and of course, the attributes people most often think about – spring flowers and fall color. Each tree is identified by mature size, cold hardiness and a photo.
Authored by Ries and Steve Fitzgerald, Extension forestry specialist, the app makes life easy with videos, step-by-step graphics, illustrations and full-color photos.

Article written by Kym Pokorny, a garden writer with more than 20 years of experience writing for The Oregonian and other publications. She is currently a communications specialist with Oregon State University Extension Service. Kym can be reached at kym.pokorny@oregonstate.edu.

This has been republished with permission from Ms. Pokorny and OSU Extension. To view more of the OSU garden tips, please visit their website here.