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How to Buy a Tree
Home Grown - Extension Agents tell it like it is!
Michigan Landscaping tips
How to Buy a Tree
First things first: choose the tree that's right for you. You may be looking for a specific type of tree, and it's probably a beautiful species. But there is a chance that there's a tree better suited to your situation.
The Planting Site
When you visit us, we'll help you check out several species that we have available. One will be just right for your planting site! Some of the factors to consider include the sun or shade in the planting location, the type of soil you'll be planting in, the moisture content of the site, wind exposure and the ultimate size you'd like your tree to achieve.
The Tree's Function
Another consideration is the tree's function in your site. Will it be used in a windscreen or a sound screen? Maybe you need an accent in the center of the yard. If you have a lot of dark green leaves in your yard, you may want a tree with a blue or yellow cast, or even red.
All landscapes should have a variety of trees for diversity of design and maintenance of tree health. Your Trim Pines professional can help you to make choices based on the above factors and others, including insect and disease resistance.
Best Tip of All!
Just call Trim Pines Farm at (810) 694-9958 before you visit, and we'll talk you through the things you need to consider about your yard before you make your tree selections. We can help you take measurements and look for various factors around your yard that can affect your decisions.
New Tree Care
Take it Home Safely
When you pick up your trees, use an open pickup truck, or another open truck or trailer without a topper. We will not be responsible for broken branches, or other plant organs, that result from loading into enclosed trucks or trailers. If your pickup does have a topper, we recommend removing it before coming to pick up your trees, as its sides can be a problem.
On your way home, trees should be covered to avoid windburn. We recommend a fabric wrapping, such as burlap, shade tarps or old bed sheets. If you use sheets, two might be needed. Plastic tarps will whip around and damage foliage, flowers and buds, so they should not be used. We have burlap available at $3.50 per yard – two yards is plenty for covering a 6' tree.
Planning where your tree will be planted should include thinking about the soil type you have. Wet conditions, both natural and man-made, result in tree mortality. In addition, trees don't like to be watered frequently, as with lawn sprinklers that may be programmed to irrigate every 2 to 3 days. (See "Watering Trees.") So, if you have a nice, well-drained area, the top of the tree's root ball should wind up at ground level. Or, if you think you might have extra heavy soil or wet conditions, it should be above ground level. If you're going for above ground level, you should probably shoot for 6-8" above. Have extra soil on hand for protecting the exposed portion of the root ball.
Now that you know how deep you want to plant your tree, dig a hole that is, at the top, twice the diameter of the root ball. It can taper down to half again the size of the root ball towards the bottom. The bottom of the hole should be firm, that is, once you've reached the point where you want the root ball to sit, don't dig any deeper. If you put loose dirt back into the bottom of the hole, the tree is likely to settle--crooked. So if you do happen to dig deeper than you expected and have to put some dirt back in, pack it as firmly as you can to try to avoid settling.
Balled and Burlapped Trees
A tree that's balled and burlapped can go into the hole as is, unless plastic twine and burlap are used to ball it. If the burlap feels like plastic, it has to come off before the root ball can be buried (but don't remove the wire basket). If the burlap and twine feel natural --99% of Trim Pines' trees are in natural burlap and twine-- it can stay on during planting. Once you have the tree in the hole, firm in some dirt about halfway up the root ball. Now that the ball is stable, you can cut off the rope around the top of the ball and remove it.
Next, bend the top part of the wire down into the hole, and follow it with the rest of the exposed burlap. Even better, cut off these two items instead of bending and folding, but the important part is that they're not exposed above the surface. Now just finish filling in the hole and firming the dirt in. DO NOT put any soil on top of the root ball. You can mound soil up to the top edge of the ball, if it is sticking up out of the ground. But covering the top with soil will suffocate the roots, and probably result in death. Now give your tree plenty of water, according to the watering instructions below.
It's important to remember that while water is the most significant thing you can give a tree, we must not water our plants and trees too often. A plant's roots need to breathe air, too, as roots that are always wet will rot or get fungal diseases. More on that later…now, here's how to put the water on.
Method 1: You can use a sprinkler, one that distributes the water in your tree's root zone rather than on its branches. Place a straight-sided container on the ground to collect some of the water, so you can determine how much you've put on. Allow the sprinkler to water the root zone until there is about 1" of water in the container when you're finished.
Method 2: Wrap a drip hose or soaker hose in a spiral around the tree and over its root zone. If you find a good quality hose at a reasonable price, you can give each of your new trees its own hose, and leave it on the root zone for the summer. Run the hose on each tree for a couple of hours, or until the soil is moist/wet at 6" deep. Experience, and testing the soil with a hand shovel or moisture meter, will give you a sense of how long the hose should run.
Method 3: Not as desirable, but ok if you don't have the sprinkler or drip hose...you can also just take your garden hose, set it on a very slow trickle - so the water stream is about the size of a pencil. Lay it near the base of your tree. Watch every half hour or so to make sure the water is spreading out, but not going too far from the tree. Move the hose to three or four different locations to keep it even, over two to four hours' time.
Now that you know how to water, here's some info on how often to do it. The air that roots take in is a part of making the food they need to grow, so they must dry out a little between watering. Leaves that wilt or turn brown may be an indicator of either too much or too little water. So how often should you water your trees? As often as the soil dries out. Some soil types may require water as often as every one to three weeks. Sandy or well-drained soils may need more frequent watering than clays or heavier soils.
With all soil types, the only way to find out whether it's time to water your tree is to "ask" the soil. Check the soil inside the edge of the root ball, about 6-12" deep. Don't water if it feels wet or mushy. If it's totally dry, water just the way you did the very first time. After a few times, you'll grow to learn your soil/plant's water needs, and you can adjust your watering for things like rainfall and cool weather. We offer an electronic moisture meter (just $7.50) that in some soils can make checking the moisture level a very easy task. And believe it or not, a good dose of water in November or December is necessary to prepare for those warm, sunny winter days, especially for evergreens.
If you are planting several trees -- more than, say, five -- ask about a drip irrigation system. It may help you save time and water by watering all your trees at once.
Lawn sprinklers can be bad for trees - here's why. You now know that trees like long, deep waterings on an infrequent basis. Well, lawn sprinklers are typically run for a few minutes to a half-hour on a very frequent cycle. This can prevent the very top of the soil surface from drying out. Air cannot reach the root system, causing the same rot and fungal diseases that result from watering a tree too often.
If you have lawn sprinklers in your yard, try to place your trees where the root system won't be affected by the sprinklers' path. If you can't do this, adjust the sprinkler heads to spray in a different direction, or turn off the affecting head. Another way to prevent lawn sprinkler damage is to reduce the frequency to weekly or less, which can result in healthier lawn as well as trees.
Mulch is a great treatment for plants. An organic, medium-colored mulch will help to reduce water evaporation, regulate soil temperatures to protect the roots, and maintain the organic and nutrient content in the soil. It's visually pleasing against trees, shrubs and perennials, and best of all, mulch can help keep down the population of weeds and competing grasses around your plants.
Bark mulches add nitrogen to the soil as they decay, which your trees and plants need to grow. Wood chips, on the other hand, deplete the soil's nitrogen as they decay, so additional fertilizer is usually needed to keep plants healthy. We like to use Red Pine bark in a shredded or nugget form, because its rich brown-red color takes a while to fade, and it enhances the soils acidity while decaying.
Mulch around trees should be no deeper than 3-4", and the mulch bed can be as big as you want it to be. The bigger the mulch bed, the less lawn you'll have to mow! But for a minimum size, we recommend about 1.5' bed diameter for each inch of trunk diameter. The trunk itself shouldn't have any mulch touching it. This would invite moisture, and the insects & fungi that go along with it, to the tree. When laying mulch, leave about 3-4" open, all the way around the trunk. Adding groundcovers such as hosta, pachysandra or others can be beneficial and attractive, too.
Your tree is planted straight, right? At least as straight as Nature will allow. And no matter how the soil is packed, it's still not as firm as it was before you dug the hole. You really don't want it to be. But you do want your tree to remain straight. Most trees don't need staking, but if yours is exposed to heavy winds it can be knocked around a little, and might end up tilted. You can stake the tree for its first year, and be fairly certain that its position will remain upright. Many sources, however, do note that staking can interfere with the tree's trunk growth. If you choose to stake, be sure to remove the staking after a year, or adjust it annually to avoid girdling the trunk. If you don't have the materials, ask your Trim Pines professional for information on what to use for staking.
When Trim Pines plants trees, we will plant them reasonably straight, though only as straight as nature intended. Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee that weather conditions won't disrupt your tree's position. We have all seen 50-year old trees topple in major storms, even if they were never transplanted. If we do come to a site to straighten a tree, our normal transplanting fees may apply.
Some shade trees can benefit from a trunk wrap during the fall and/or winter months. Any shade trees in an area where deer are present should be wrapped with a sturdy material at the time that bucks are rubbing. Thin-barked trees such as Maples, some of which can be prone to frost cracking in winter, need to be wrapped with a light-colored material (such as burlap or paper wrapping) for the winter months. November is a good time to do this in Michigan. All wrappings should be taken off the trunks in the spring.
The family and staff at Trim Pines know that homeowners have a lot of questions when making improvements to their yards. They're ready with the answers about tree and plant selection. The answers come from the many years of experience growing things in the clay soils of Grand Blanc. They know how to work with the clay soils to produce low maintenance, unique landscapes for their clients. Soils are the life blood of a farm, and the Yancho family thinks that concept should apply to the yards where people want to grow healthy plants and lawns. They encourage their customers to gain an understanding of the basics of plant vigor and health that start with soil structure, drainage and water conservation. This farm based philosophy has helped their customers enjoy beautiful low maintenance landscapes.
Call Trim Pines Farm at (810) 694-9958 or use the online message form for more information and to make an appointment for landscape design services.
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