Pick the right tree, plant it the right way

Saturday, April 26, 2008

If you haven't yet celebrated Arbor Day by planting a tree, there are some things to think about before you head toward the nursery.

As the Norris Park situation in McCook has demonstrated, Nebraska has lost nearly half of its community forest resources, according to the University of Nebraska Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

"Over the years, storms, diseases, insects and even old age have taken their toll on our community forests," said Jessica Kelling, ReTree Nebraska coordinator. "This makes it even more crucial to celebrate Arbor Day by planting trees in communities across the state."

She offers the following tips:

* Choose a tree based on function and form first, then aesthetics Consider the tree's purpose in the landscape. Once determining its purpose and benefits, consider things such as color and flowers.

* Consider the tree's mature size when choosing its location. If there isn't room for the tree to grow and mature, the planting won't be successful. When a planting spot is selected, spread a garden hose in a circle to help visualize the tree's mature canopy spread. This will help prevent planting too close to existing structures.

* Make sure the tree is not planted too deep. The planting hole should be twice as wide as deep as the root ball. Be sure to remove excess soil from the top of the root ball to locate the tree's primary lateral roots. These should be located at or just below the surface.

* Promote tree health with mulch. A 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch will protect tree roots from weather extremes, conserve moisture and eliminate weed and grass competition. Keep mulch from resting against the base of the trunk and don't apply too much mulch. These can both trap excess moisture at the base of the trunk and around the roots, resulting in insect and disease problems.

* Provide supplemental water for the first year or until the tree is established. The amount of water a newly planted tree needs depends on the species planted and soil type. Water the tree at planting and again the next day. After this, use a screwdriver to test the soil. If soil moisture is adequate, it should be fairly easy to push the screwdriver into the ground 6 to 8 inches. If the ground is dry, it will be difficult to push the screwdriver in beyond a couple of inches. Automatic irrigation systems typically provide too much water for a new tree.

We were all sad to see the stately old trees in Norris Park come down, but thanks to a number of generous donors, several new trees are growing in their place.

Take advantage of the City of McCook's tree rebate program. Consider planting a few new trees on your property to help provide our community with their benefits for years to come.

More information is available at www.retreenebraska.unl.edu, or call the city offices at (308) 345-2022.

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