Set aside to celebrate trees, National Arbor Day has been observed since 1872. In most states it is observed on the last Friday in April, usually a good time of year to plant throughout most of the country, and it is a state holiday in Nebraska where the founder of Arbor Day, J. Sterling Morton, was born.
Trees add tremendous value to your home – they shade your house in the summer (cutting your air conditioning bills), they add oxygen to the air (significantly reducing pollution) and they add beauty in every season. Planting a tree is simple really – just make sure you put the root end in the ground! – but there are a few points you should keep in mind.
-Take some time to pick the right tree for your yard. Think about how big your choice will be when it’s mature. White oaks and sugar maples are magnificent trees, but are they really appropriate for the average suburban plot? Take a look at Best Trees for Your Garden by Allen Paterson which can help you choose from one of the many beautiful small to medium trees that are available.
-Choose the right tree for the right spot. Some prefer some shade, some need full sun. If it’s a flowering tree, will it bloom reliably in our cold springs? Does it require special care, or have problems with pests and diseases? Growing Shrubs and Small Trees in Cold Climates by Nancy Rose is an excellent source for answering these questions and more including planting for wildlife, how to prune and recommendations of best varieties to grow.
-The number one reason that trees fail to live is improper planting. The number one cause of improper planting is planting the tree too deeply. Do not plant your tree too deeply. Do not pile mulch up around the trunk of the tree. These practices will slowly but surely kill your tree. Remember how you drew a tree when you were a little kid? You probably drew a straight trunk and where it met the ground, you’d draw slanting lines to indicate the roots. That’s called the tree “flare”. You need to plant your new tree so that this shows above ground – just like in your drawing!
Check out the Iowa State University Forestry Extension for lots of tips and information on the best trees to plant in Iowa and how to plant them. Also, try calling the Scott County Extension office at 359-7577 where the Hort Clinic, staffed by Master Gardeners, will answer your tree and gardening questions.