Tree Service Blog Portland
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Planting a tree is always an exciting new undertaking and takes plenty of work to ensure its success. There is some debate on the ideal time for planting that new tree. However, contrary to popular belief that spring is the ideal time, you should really look to do it in the fall.
New trees have the best chance of survival when exposed to moderate temperatures and a good amount of rain. Our falls are cool and definitely come with plenty of rain, which creates the ideal weather for planting a new tree.
The condition of the soil is better as well, with the soil being warm enough and not quite as damp as springtime, after it's endured many months of rainfall.
A new tree needs to have time to develop a system of roots and acclimate itself before the intense weather of winter unfolds, so planting it as early as possible in fall is important. Because the root system will already be grown and in place, the warmer months will be easier on the tree.
When you think about energy saving tips, your landscaping decisions may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But your trees can play an important role in staying cool this summer and for many summers to come.
We only get a few months of hot weather here in the Portland area, but even the Northwest can have some unforgiving heat now and again.
According to the U.S. Forest Service Center for Urban Forest Research, planting three trees around the perimeter of your home can save you up to 30 percent on your energy bills. Those savings may not be quite so generous for our milder climate, but it can still be significant.
It's just a matter of planting trees and shrubs in the right spots.
Planting large trees on the east and west sides of your home will help shade it from the hot summer sun. Since most of us are off to work in the morning (when the sun is rising in the east), it’s particularly important to shade the west side when we’re home in the evenings and depending on our AC unit for a cool indoor climate. That late afternoon, early evening sun can be brutally hot, which may lead you to adjust your thermostat down a few degrees if not well shaded.
Now that you have a beautiful newly planted tree it is time to master the steps of keeping it that way. The bad news is that for the first 2 years this will take some time and attention on your part, but the good news is that after those 2 years of work your tree should be happy and healthy and not require much more them some pruning and fertilization by your arborist every few years. Below is a description of each of the subjects regarding your new tree requiring your attention.
Young trees need adequate water to become established. Although rainfall may be adequate in some areas and in some seasons, additional water may be needed, particularly after planting when root systems are limited. After the initial watering at planting, deciduous trees do not need additional water until the first leaves have reached full size, but then will need water 3-4 times per week and everyday during the plus 90 degree days of summer. We recommend using a water bag or ring (shown in the picture) during the dry seasons for the first 2 years. The water bag will only need to be filled weekly or bi-weekly during the hottest part of the summer eliminating the chore of daily watering. After 2 years, most trees can survive with only one or no irrigations, although they would probably do better with monthly applications.
It is essential to maintain an area free of turf and weeds around tree trunks, because turf and weeds compete for water and nutrients, and some produce chemicals toxic to other plants. A small turf-free area around a tree also reduces the need for mowers to come close. This clear area must be at least one-foot in radius. Larger areas add little benefit. After four or five years, tree roots are extensive enough that other plants close to their trunks are not a problem, although mower operators should still exercise caution.
A three to four-inch-thick mulch, material placed on the soil surface, controls most weed seedlings. In addition, mulch protects the soil from compaction and erosion, conserves moisture, moderates soil temperatures, provides an all-weather surface for walking, and allows plants to root in the fertile and well-aerated surface soil. The mulch should not be added until 2-4 months after the tree has been planted so that it does not interfere with the root system obtaining oxygen. Keep mulches at least two inches away from the trunks of trees to minimize disease and rodent damage. A wide range of organic and inorganic materials can be used.
Pruning and Training
In years past, severe pruning after planting was thought to be necessary. However, newly planted trees grow quite well if they are pruned lightly or not at all. The key to pruning is to encourage the growth of several large permanent branches, called "scaffold branches," that will ultimately form the basic structure of the mature tree.
Most trees get off to a good start, but serious problems can be avoided or minimized if the trees are periodically inspected. Inspect trees for the beginnings of insect and disease damage. At the same time, take care of any staking problems, check on tree moisture status, and identify any other problems. The inspection should take only a few minutes per tree, but prompt action on any problems encountered will pay big dividends in healthier, stronger trees.
Below are step by step instructions on how to plant a tree like a pro and ensure that your tree gets off to a good start.
1. Choosing the Right Timing: The best time to plant a tree in Portland is from when the rain starts to a month before it stops and not during any cold snaps. More or less this is from October 15 to April 15th. If you need to plant a tree outside of this season that is ok, just realize that the tree will need regular watering until the rains begin again and try to avoid any particularly hot weather.
2. Choosing a Tree: choosing the right tree for the right area of your yard is the most difficult and time consuming part of planting a tree. You need to do your research. In some cases it may not be best to handle this step yourself. You need to consider: Light availability, mature size, growth rate, drainage, disease concerns, maintenance costs, clean up, city restrictions and of course aesthetics. You should try to avoid planting anything other than ornamental trees within 10’ of your home.
Probe your local nursery staff of information about tree you are considering. It also might be a good idea to have an arborist out for recommendation on what tree might work well in your space. An arborist will know the most about the characteristic or different trees and their maintenance and disease concerns specific to your location. Most arborists provide this service for a small fee ($50-$100). Spending a little money of this now could really save you in the long run if you plan to stay in the house.
3. Purchasing A Healthy Specimen: When purchasing a tree it is important to choose a healthy tree with good structure. It amazes me sometimes how many trees that should be in the burn pile end up for sale at retail nurseries. Here is a list of things to look for:
1. Unless your tree is a multi-stemmed your tree should have a single trunk that leads straightthe middle of the tree to the top of the tree. It is important that this single trunk be intact all the way to the tip top of the tree.
2. Your tree should not have any scars or damage to the trunk.
3. Your tree should not have any indication of bugs or other infestations.
4. Look at the roots of the tree. The larger roots should not swirl around the container. This is a sign the tree has been in that size pot too long. Also they should appear healthy will no signs of rot. This will require you get your hands dirty.
5. Stand back take a look at the tree from far away. Ask yourself: Is the tree appealing in its shape? Are the branches evenly spaced? Is the shape consistent with the variety? This is a lot easier to do when the leaves are off the tree, but work with your situation the best you can.
6. Choose a larger tree. If you are looking at a stock of trees and there are several that all seem like they are in good condition choose the large one. Large trees handle the stress of transplant better and root in more quickly. They are also lest prone to damage and vandalism. We recommend a 2” caliper tree in most situations.
It is a good idea even if you are having your tree delivered to go to the nursery and pick it out by hand as it most likely will be a permanent part of your landscaping.
4. Plating the Tree: Take the tree out of the container and score the sides of the root wad cutting trough the outer layer of roots 1-2” with the side of your shovel. Do the same thing to the bottom of the root wad in an X pattern. Dig your fingers into the root wade and loosen the outer layer of roots.
Measure the height from the bottom of the root wad to the top of the soil. Dig a whole this deep and twice as wide as the container the tree came in. You do not want to put more than a dusting of new soil over the top of the root wad. Any deeper can cause rot at the base of the tree. A wide hole helps the roots get established in less compacted soil. If your soil is clay you will want to make the hole narrower to stop water from collecting at the bottom of the hole (a couple of inches wider than the container). Also if the tree is in a high traffic area you may want to make the hole narrower so the tree can stand up on its own without being staked. Staking creates a long list of problems for developing trees. A tree should be able to hold itself up. While a wider hole is preferred you will need to do what is needed for your specific circumstances.
Put the tree in the hole lightly compact the soil around the tree. Do Not amend the soil. If you are adding soil, mix your own soil with regular top soil. Amended soil can cause the roots to want to stay in the nutrient rich area instead of rooting out and stabilizing the tree. Also if you had a tree removed do not plant the tree in the stump grindings. You will have to remove the stumps grinds and replace that soil with top soil.
I personally like to create a little raised ring around the tree at the outer edges of the disturbed area. What this does is stop water from running over the ground and away from the roots and traps it so it leaches into the soil and down to the roots.
Remove all tags, tape, bracing, and any other stuff that is not a natural part of the tree and enjoy your new tree.
A blog post on tree planting after care instructions coming soon.
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