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The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
  • Time for fall tree planting

  • With autumn colors in full array, now is the time to get out there and become active with fall tree plantings.
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  • With autumn colors in full array, now is the time to get out there and become active with fall tree plantings.
    Even planting one tree provides a wide variety of benefits, including environmental (e.g. stormwater uptake, air filtration, wildlife habitat), social (e.g. recreation, community interactions, increased health recovery time), and economical (e.g. increase property value, save power on utilities, economic boost for businesses) assets. With all of these benefits in mind and more, why wait any further?
    Fall is one of the best times to plant. Trees are ending their growing season and shutting down for a winter's sleep. As a result, there are less stressful components since the tree's energy storage is being rerouted to the roots. Transplant shock is less and the tree has a chance to work on re-establishing its root system in preparation for the next growing season the following spring. A few frosts and freezes do not harden the ground completely as in the winter months, making digging less cumbersome during the fall season. Colder temperatures also diminishes the insect and disease populations, making the trees less susceptible to infestations.
    There are a few things to consider before planting a tree. First, know who owns the land, whether it is your own property or having the permission of the city to plant on a public right-of-way. You also may have to check for underground pipes or power lines before digging as well as power lines overhead. Second, understand the planting space, including soil characteristics, drainage, soil space, and depth. These factors will help guide your tree selection and options, such as tree species, growth rate, mature height, and mature spread.
    Different species of trees will have different types of requirements, such as amount of light needed, moisture, soil chemistry, and tolerance to urban areas (e.g. road salt, herbicides, compaction, pollution). You may also have personal objectives of how your tree will serve you, including shade, fruit, flowering, attract wildlife species, energy conservation, or fall foliage aesthetics.  Do your research by looking at tree identification books or resources online to determine which tree species will best fit your needs.
    Once you have made your decision and bought your tree, the first step to planting is digging the hole. The depth of the hole should be level with the root collar of the tree, or the transition area between the tree trunk and the roots. The soil directly underneath the tree should be firm to serve as a pedestal so the tree does not raise or sink. The hole should be 2-3 times the diameter of the root ball to ensure that the roots will have room to grow and expand outward. Check the roots before planting the tree. If grown in a container or burlap, for example, the roots may be pot bound and need to be loosened to ensure that they continue to grow out instead of encircling the tree, which may lead to root girdling in the future. 
    Page 2 of 2 - Once planted, fill the soil back in and tamp the soil down to eliminate air pockets.  Staking the tree is not always necessary. Use stakes only if the tree cannot stand up on its own or the trunk is bending at an undesirable angle.
    Otherwise, staking the tree can potentially weaken the root structure, as it needs to "learn" how to stand on its own against typical weather elements.
    Mulching around the tree helps retain moisture and keeps other competitive vegetation at bay. The mulch should be placed in a doughnut shape around the tree without actually touching the trunk at a depth of 2-4 inches. Water the tree at least once a week, depending on rainfall amounts, until the soil freezes. Give the tree a chance to re-establish itself before pruning, which typically happens one to three years after the tree is planted. You may also lightly fertilize if needed.
    For additional information, see:
    http://urbanext.illinois.edu/treeselector/
    http://www.arborday.org/shopping/trees/treewizard/intro.cfm
    http://www.arborday.org/trees/video/howToPlant.cfm
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