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Plant a Tree

Make like the Lorax! Photo by Mary Reed.

There are plenty of reasons to be a treehugger: trees give us shade, campfire wood, toboggans and treehouses. Plus, they beautify the world. You might not technically qualify as a treehugger, however, if you’ve never actually planted one.

Fall is a good time to plant a tree, and here’s why you should: “(Trees) provide environmental, social and economic benefits,” says Sarah Gracey, Kentucky urban forestry coordinator. Sarah points out that urban trees increase a home’s value, help save on summer air conditioning bills, attract people to communities, help reduce stormwater runoff and pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

Here are some best practices for planting a tree.

Select a tree. “One of the key considerations is just how much space you have,” Sarah says. Plant a large-growing tree where you have a lot of space and a small species where you have little space. Another consideration is species diversity. When something like the emerald ash borer comes to town, it destroys all ash trees. Very depressing if that’s the only type of tree that lines your street. For information about a tree type, try a reference book like Trees of North America.

Select a site. “There’s no sense in planting a future problem,” Sarah says. This means don’t plant your tree directly under a power line where it will get mangled by the electric company. This also means don’t plant a tree with large roots near a house’s foundation.

Choose the right time. Trees transplant best when they’re dormant, that is, when the leaves are off. This means late fall and early spring are good times to plant in our region.

Dig a hole. Dig a hole three times the size of the tree’s root ball. “It’s better to plant a hundred dollar tree in a two hundred dollar hole than it is to plant a two hundred dollar tree in a hundred dollar hole,” Sarah says.

Plant the tree. Make sure the tree is not in too deep – covering part of the trunk – or too shallow, exposing the roots. Shovel the soil from the hole back in (“not amended soil – the tree’s going to have to grow in that soil; it might as well get used to it”) and pack it down lightly to get air pockets out.

Take care of the tree. Put a ring of mulch around the tree to help keep lawnmowers and weed whackers away from the trunk. Avoid a “mulch volcano” that will only create a breeding ground for pests up along the trunk. Arrange the mulch in a shallow bowl shape so when you water it, the water will soak in rather than run off. Speaking of water: in its first year, a transplanted tree should get an inch of water a week – whether from mother nature or you – then an inch every two weeks in year two and an inch every three weeks in year three.