Cornell Cooperative Extension

April 21, 2014

Let these tips on planting trees take root

I have started writing this column twice already. 

The first time I began with “Finally, spring is here!” The second time I began with “I hope you didn’t blink — you probably missed spring!” Now I’m not sure what to say.

The long winter followed by those few days of unusually warm temperatures, which were a teaser if I ever experienced one, followed again by ice and snow have my brain (and my joints) in a tizzy.

Hopefully, by the time you read this we will have settled into spring for real.

I received several phone calls in the last few days from folks who wanted to know what to expect from their perennials, trees and shrubs following the harsh winter they experienced.

Unfortunately, the answer is, I don’t know. I don’t like saying “wait and see” anymore than you like hearing it, but that’s the best I have to offer.

I can tell you that some of my irises had already come up and the tips are now brown. I’ll just trim that off and they will be fine. If you have questions as your garden comes back to life, give me a call.

If you are planning to plant or transplant a tree, there are some things to keep in mind.

First, make sure you are not planting under power lines or wires that will mean cutting back your tree as it grows. You want to be sure that you are not digging into underground utilities, either. 

You may think that digging a hole and plopping the tree in will suffice, and it will if you only want the tree to live a short time. There are well-researched methods to planting that will help ensure success.

First, dig the hole in advance so the root ball doesn’t have a chance to dry out. Your hole should be two to three times as wide as the root ball and the same depth as the root ball. Tree roots grow more like a pancake than a carrot, if you can envision that, and digging the hole wide loosens the soil for the roots to penetrate easily.

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