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Spring Planting and Care of Trees

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By: Nathan Winter, Extension Educator, McLeod & Meeker Counties

Trees are often enjoyed more by people that come after those that planted the tree. Trees help define how a yard in the city will look and the type of landscaping that can be done by determining shade or full sun types of plants. Businesses and city municipalities also use trees to help make areas more astatically pleasing to those that are working within in those areas as well as those that are using those areas for recreation. In rural country settings, trees serve many purposes, but one of the core purposes is protection from the weather elements.

We need to know when and how to plant trees to get them started off in the right direction. According to the University of Minnesota Forest Resource Extension, in the Midwest region, bareroot trees and shrubs should be planted when the plants are dormant in the spring or at the end of the growing season (fall). Balled and burlapped, containerized, and container grown plants can be planted throughout the growing season, but with caution during the summer months. If planting in the fall, the recommendation is to plant four weeks before the soil temperature drops below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. To plant trees correctly, obtain a copy of the U of M publication called "Planting and Transplanting Trees and Shrubs", which can be found at http://z.umn.edu/e8m.

Watering is going to be important to a newly planted tree as well as any existing trees on your landscape. Since watering is such a time consuming task, you may have to pick and choose the existing trees that you want to water. I recommend watering any newly planted trees and also water any trees that have shown stress, disease, or insect problems through the growing season.

Water newly watered trees over the root zone of the tree. Established trees should be watered around the "root zone" of the tree. Roots of trees can vary from 1.5 to 3 times as wide as the canopy. Avoid frequent light watering and instead water infrequently and heavy. You will want to wet the soil to a 6 - 8 inch depth and then let the soil dry out in between. Use a rod to determine when you have wet the soil to that depth. Believe it or not, you can over water trees, which will starve the roots of oxygen and cause roots to rot. If rains are averaging one inch every week, watering will probably not be necessary.

Protect stems of landscape and shrub trees from animals and mechanical equipment. This is most important on new or young shrubs and trees. Use a mesh or hardwire cloth at least three inches from the stem. Plastic guards can also be used, but they are only recommended to encase the lower part of the stem, where damage can take place. Sun scald can be prevented by wrapping the trunk with a commercial tree wrap, plastic tree guards, or any other light-colored material. Put the wrap on in the fall and remove it in the spring after the last frost. Wraps should be used primarily on new trees.

Fertilizing trees should be done on a case by case basis. A soil test can be done to determine if the soil does not have the adequate amounts of fertilizer in the soil. U of M Soil Test Kits can be picked up at most U of M Extension Offices or by contacting the U of M Soil Testing Laboratory: http://soiltest.cfans.umn.edu/. Often, the tree has sufficient amounts of nutrients available if the lawn is already being fertilized regularly. To learn more about fertilizing trees, obtain a copy of the U of M publication called "Tree Fertilization: A Guide for Fertilizing New and Established Trees in the Landscape", which can be found at http://z.umn.edu/e8n.

Do the best you can to educate yourself on caring for those beloved trees properly. Proper care will help increase the longevity of your landscape trees and give you and others years of enjoyment and admiration for the trees.

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