ISA Certified Arborist, PR4600A
With all the trees and shrubs arriving at the garden centres throughout the region, I thought it would be a good idea to provide some tips on planting to help give your tree or shrubs the best start possible. Planting a tree is a great investment – don’t cut corners. Start with the right tree for the location – sun, size, location and function. I have supported the Arbor-Day Foundation for many years. They are advocates for trees and offer a wide selection of excellent consumer information. I have included three of their videos and handouts to help guide you. I do have a few added tips that I have identified over the past several years and items specific to our region. I am sure where the video is being filmed, they don’t have the same heavy clay soils we face. I emphasise their point about prepping the growing area. I always recommend spending the most time prepping the site to give your tree the best soil medium. There is no point planting a $200 tree in a hole that takes 10 minutes to prepare. Rooting will take longer and could result in long term girdled root systems that leave the tree unstable. Don’t expect to see a lot of growth above ground – this is actually a good thing – you want your tree to establish the root system first. I prefer to use our native soils for planting without amendments (as mentioned in the videos). A tree that has to transition from deluxe potting mixes will not want to stray into the “deluxe” soils at the edge of your planting hole. I prefer to shake off any loose materials from the container and blend them with our native soils. This is like a transition area from Yahoo to Oh My. Gently loosen the roots. If there is a lot of encircling roots, the video gives a great demonstration on how to approach this issue.
One other item that is discussed, but not illustrated, is the issue of the root collar and the appropriate grade for planting. I found this excellent photo at The Family Handyman.com to illustrate. it is not uncommon to find trees planted too deep in the pot. Be sure to locate the root flare area by gently removing any extra soil or mulch. You may also purchase trees that are growing from a root graft. This is evident by change in taper and is used when a more hardy root stock is needed to sustain the tree.
Don’t fertilize with a high nitrogen based product for the first year. A small amount of transplant fertilizer is okay. You can incorporate organic products such as bone meal or compost but make sure they are well blended into the soil first. Adding mycorrhizal fungus can be helpful. Mycorrhiza is a symbiotic association between a fungus and the roots of a vascular plant. In a mycorrhizal association, the fungus colonizes the host plant’s roots increasing it’s capacity to absorb nutrients from the soil.
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