Helping Your New Tree Live a Long Life

Posted on May 21, 2016

There are some important considerations when planting trees on your property to ensure they will not only survive but thrive. Many of those decisions come well before you put your shovel to the soil. Here are a few tips to help ensure that your tree will live a long and happy life!

Selecting The Right Tree

1) Free from pests and diseases: When selecting a tree, look for evidence of harmful pests. Sometimes you can actually see insects such as scale or aphids and/or the damage they have caused such as chewed leaves. Some pests can be shipped in the soil that the tree has been grown in. Signs of a diseased tree can include yellowing of leaves and/or spots. Make sure that you monitor your tree after it has been planted so you can address any issues early limiting the use of harmful pesticides.   

2) Strong in structure: Just because a tree is green and full of leaves does not mean it is healthy. Unfortunately some trees are cut back significantly to promote green growth prior to being shipped. It is best to examine the physical structure of the tree. Look for trees that have a strong central leader (one main dominate branch/no double leaders); good branch spacing and wide branch attachments. Trees with this type of form will require less maintenance over time and can better withstand storm events.

3) Good nursery care: Trees should be properly pruned making sure that they will seal themselves off from the wound. This seal will prevent entry to pest and diseases into the main truck of the tree. When trees are dug the root ball should provide enough soil that they can survive transplanting. If they have been grown in containers enough room should be given so girdling roots to not grow. During transportation care was taken to ensure that no damage to the trunk or branches occurred.

4) Adapted to the local climate:  Trees have unique growing conditions with their limiting factor being how much low cold temperatures they can tolerate. Look on the label of the tree and it will note what “zone” the tree is “hardy” to. Look here to see Canada’s Plant Hardiness Zone maps to help you select one for your yard.

The Right Location

1) Avoiding Potential Hazards: Plant trees so they will not conflict with overhead or underground utilities. During storm events large trees close to utility lines can fall and disrupt services. Also, make sure that the location of the tree will not conflict with vehicles or pedestrians. Planting an evergreen too close to a driveway or sidewalk can obstruct vision or create a slippery patch in the winter.

2) Plan for the mature size of the tree: Most trees come home to be planted in the back seat of a car or truck. At their mature size they would definitely not be able to travel this way! Measure the location where you would like to plant and research the trees that would best fit. Most information sources will note the height and canopy spread of the tree at maturity. In the nursery, this information can be found on the label.

3) Does not conflict with tree roots: Remember that trees also need space for their roots. The majority of tree roots grow in the first 12-18” of top soil. Planting a large tree too close to the foundation of a house, retaining wall or sidewalk can cause long term (and potentially expensive) issues and maintenance problems.

4) Provides the right environment: Not all trees have the same needs and can require different amounts of moisture, soil type and sun. Some trees naturally live in wet locations such as aspen and willows and would best survive in a spot that does not dry out frequently. Diverting a rain barrel hose to a willow tree would make it very happy. Others enjoy lots of sun or soil that is sandy. Identifying these specific locations will ensure that your tree establishes quickly in the spot you choose for planting. 

Looking for more info on how to properly select, plant and care for trees? Check out Trees are Good. 

Remember that trees are natural carbon sinks, help clean our air, soak up excess rain water, protect areas from soil erosion & so much more. Consider planting a tree on your property (or more if you have the space!) to help re-build #yyc's tree canopy:)