By The Trussville Tree Commission, Special to the Tribune
TRUSSVILLE — It’s Arbor Week in Trussville, a time to celebrate our beautiful trees and to plant new ones. The garden shops are stocked with the best tree selections of the year, and the Trussville Tree Commission will be giving away hundreds of tree seedlings this weekend. Before you grab your shovels and begin planting, let’s talk about how to give those trees the best start possible by planting them properly.
First, carefully consider the variety and placement of your new tree by researching growing requirements and projected mature size. Know where your water, gas, power, and sewer lines are before you start digging. For assistance locating underground utilities, call 811. Also, please make sure that you are not planting in the public right-of-way. Planning for the best planting location can save you from the trouble down the road of having to move a tree. It can also keep your tree from dying a sad and preventable death. I once planted a gorgeous pear tree only to back into it with my car two days later. I have been far more thoughtful about my plantings since then.
Once you have selected the right variety for the right space, following a few simple steps will make sure that your tree gets off to a great start. Trees should be planted in a wide bowl-shaped hole that is two to five times wider than the root ball of the tree. Most importantly, that hole should not be deeper than the root ball. Planting too deeply is the most common tree planting mistake. It’s important that the root flare (where the trunk meets the roots) is slightly higher than ground level. If the hole is dug too deeply, the loose soil can compact under the root ball and cause the tree to sink.
Potted or burlaped trees sometimes have tightly wrapped roots. Tree roots should be freed and gently spread out laterally. For severely rootbound trees, this may require cutting tightly circled roots.
The planting hole should be filled with amended native soil. Plenty of online instructions advise backfilling with only native soil. Those instructions do not apply to the clay soil in Trussville. We need compost mixed in with our native soil: typically, 1 part compost to two parts earth. When the hole is filled with the soil/compost mixture, water the tree slowly and thoroughly. Then, cover the soil around the tree with two to three inches of mulch. The mulch should not touch the trunk, and the root flare should be exposed.
With these thoughtful placement and planting measures, your trees will add happiness and beauty to Trussville for generations to come. For more tree planting information, join us at one of our Arbor week celebrations. Tree Commission members will be available to answer your questions at both events: Tree Talk with David Dobbs Thursday, February 24, 7 p.m. at Trussville Public Library; Tree planting and seedling giveaway Saturday, February 26, 2 p.m. at Civitan Park.