ReTree Week is sponsored by ReTree Nebraska, a 10-year cooperative initiative to promote the proper planting and care of 1 million trees across Nebraska by 2017. So far, nearly 85,000 tree plantings have been reported.
Fall's cooler temperatures, increased moisture and reduced humidity provide a perfect environment to increase that number. These conditions allow properly planted trees to establish their root systems quickly, giving them a jump start on spring growth.
Consider the following tips to help make your fall planting a success:
- Pay close attention to the planting site. To avoid conflicts with buildings, utility lines and other trees, look up and around as you consider the mature height and width of any trees you plant.
- Don't forget about the soil. If it's sandy, you may need a species that is drought tolerant while heavier clay soils may call for a tree adapted to higher levels of soil moisture. Soil amendments are not recommended and only fertilize if you know there is a nutrient deficiency.
- Carefully think about what you will plant. Many trees grow well in Nebraska but aren't widely planted. To promote these species, ReTree Nebraska has developed a list of Good Trees for the Good Life. To find out more about these species and where you can purchase them, visit retreenebraska.unl.edu.
- You only get one shot at planting a tree properly, so do it right the first time. Dig a hole as deep as the root ball (be sure excess soil is removed) and twice as wide. This ensures a planting site where newly developing roots can easily establish themselves into the surrounding soil and develop a healthy root system.
- Remove the tree from its container or basket and examine the root system. (If the tree is balled and burlapped, be sure to remove all burlap and any metal basket that may be present.) If the tree is root bound or has excessive spiraling or circling roots, it will not be able to establish itself. If the root ball contains just a few spiraling roots, score the side of the root ball with a sharp knife or pruner so developing roots are able to re-establish themselves. Look for girdling roots as well. These must be removed or they will choke off the tree and it will not survive.
- Remove excess soil from the top of the root ball to find the tree's primary lateral roots located at or near the soil surface when you place the tree in the planting hole. Even a couple of inches of excess soil over the root system can be detrimental to the health and vigor of the root system.
- After your tree is in the ground, add a layer of mulch to protect tree roots from extreme weather conditions, eliminate weed and grass competition and preserve soil moisture. Mulch near the trunk should be approximately 1 inch deep, while mulch can be up to 4 inches deep toward the edge of the mulch ring. Don't allow mulch to rest directly against the trunk of the tree as this can encourage circling roots, trap excess moisture and lead to insect and disease problems.
- Staking is not always required at planting, particularly for small trees or trees planted in protected areas. However, trees that are tall and leggy or in high wind areas should be staked. The goal of staking is to anchor the root ball and prevent newly developed root hairs from breaking, not to eliminate all movement within the stem of the tree.
- Water your tree at planting. The amount of water needed will depend on the soil type and the type of tree planted. Water the day after planting, three days later and three days after that. Continue monitoring your newly planted tree to be sure it doesn't get too dry, but remember that more newly planted trees die from too much water than from not enough. If you can easily push a 6-inch screwdriver into the soil surrounding the tree, you are probably providing adequate moisture. Using a turf irrigation system to water trees may not be optimal for the tree's requirements.
ReTree Nebraska works with more than 200 ReTree ambassadors in 80 communities. It's a joint effort of the Nebraska Forest Service, Nebraska Statewide Arboretum, UNL Department of Agronomy and Horticulture, Nebraska Rural Initiative, Nebraska Community Forestry Council and the university's Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
More details at: http://go.unl.edu/ti5