Basic Tree Planting and Care tips
Best times of year to plant
Here in Texas, you can plant a tree nearly year-round but there are times when you're going to get a lot more results in the way of healthy establishment compared to others.
The very best time of year to Plant trees is Early Fall, just as the Summer heat has faded to the moderate temperatures of Fall. This lets the tree have a number of weeks where the leave are still active enough to draw in nutrients to do some serious Winter rooting after the leaves fall off.
Fall is better for planting trees and permanent shrubs because of the soil-air temperature differential. In the Spring, you have more time where the soil is still cold while the air is warm, which on a newly planted tree means the top is being encouraged to grow while the bottom is somewhat inhibited by the soil temperature. In the Fall you have just the opposite, where the air will get cold faster and the top of the tree will go dormant, it will take much longer before the summer-warmed land begins to enough to slow root growth.
Hence, plant in the Fall, and even after the top of the tree has gone down for the winter, the roots will still be growing strongly for some time before temperatures in the soil slow them down to winter rates. In the following spring, the new tree has a much more established root structure that is more prepared to coordinate with the top-growth. Spring isn?t bad, mind you, just not the best choice.
Planting in Summer would be my least favorite choice since the very high temps can mean the newly-planted tree has a higher likelihood of getting accidental transplant shock by drying out. It can still be done, as long as you are careful not to let it dry out.
Winter, unless there is a freeze either in progress or coming very soon, is an okay time. The tree is fairly dormant and therefore less apt to getting stressed by the move.
Watering your Trees
New Trees- These will always need more water their first six months in the ground. Somewhere around 1 inch or so a week will be good- soaked in slowly is best.
Established Trees- Established trees are a different story. Some love the idea of very wet ground, such as Birch and Willow. Others would much rather you give them less water. You'll have to refer to the information on your individual tree type to get the best watering rates.
Trees in the Lawn- here's where we get into a bit of trouble. Many trees don't want a lot of water and will sicken if over-watered. Red oak, for example, would prefer 24 inches of water per year. However, many get more than twice that thanks to the lawn being watered constantly. Hence it's best to follow the advice: water deeply and infrequently. Once a week for an hour is much better than 4 times a week for 20 minutes. Deep and infrequent water will have you using less overall water to better results including a lawn with deeper roots that are less affected by some surface drying.
Watering during the day- for crying our loud don't water between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. during the hotter parts of the year. This is a huge waste as you can lose up to half the water sprayed in evaporation. Many local governments have implemented just such a measure, but even if not required it just makes more sense. You best time to water is in the morning before 10. Evening's not too bad, as long as you don't overdo it. It can lead to some fungus issues although it's not a big panic- it rains at night too, you know.
Feeding your Trees
Topside- Foliar feeding is a great practice for a number of reasons. Not only does it allow you to deliver some nutrients directly to your tree's upper growth, but it also can be used as a vessel to introducing treatments like Garlic/Pepper Tea to drive off unwanted pests. Unlike with chemicals, you can often combine organic methods to get better results and better use of your time. Giving a good foliar feeding that also has Garlic/Pepper in it means that not only are you feeding that tree, but you're helping it to drive off things that might bother it. For example spraying an apple tree like this means you are fueling its growth and fruit development at the same time you're running off aphids that might prey on tender young growth.
The best foliar feeds will have a combination of horticultural molasses, compost tea, seaweed, and natural apple cider vinegar. Garrett Juice is a good example.
Below the deck- obviously most water and nutrients are taken up from the soil by way of the roots. We don't really see the roots much, but we have to make sure to provide the best environment for them we can so they remain healthy. Sick roots will mean dead tree eventually.
Newly-planted trees, while I don't put amendments in the backfill, I do definitely cover the planting area with a good layer of compost mixed with some other amendments such as Lava sand, volcanite, or earthworm castings. But don't forget to treat the area around the planting. You want all the soil that the tree will be growing into, reaching its roots out from that first planting zone, to be as alive and healthy as possible. This will encourage the roots to grow out that way.
For established trees, just make sure you do your regular organic lawn care feedings and that should take care of the tree essentially. Adding the occasional bit of extra mineral or compost to the root zone of a tree definitely won't hurt though. Consider it preventative maintenance.
Keep in mind- the best thing we're aiming for here is to feed the soil so that it can in turn take care of those trees you've got growing in there.
Caring for Tree Damage
It will happen. So just get that thought squarely in your mind. At some point there will be some damage to your tree. High winds, hail, bad drivers- Texas has plenty of all this and all of them can hurt your tree. Crazy Louie from up the road comes down the lane too fast, doesn't take the curve quit right and he clips your Elm, taking a chunk out of the trunk. High winds from a spring storm manage to rip a branch messily off your Maple.
Here's one thing to keep in mind- for the most part, trees that get hurt in the woods survive just fine with no intervention at all.
Now, admittedly sometime by virtue of humans just living there, neighborhoods will have more bug and disease threats to a tree injury than if they were in the forest.
All the black paint, tar, and other things sold (for the most part, there are one or two organic ones) for putting on a wound are at best a waste of your money and at worst harmful. Some of them even recommend you use their product when you're just doing good, clean corrective pruning.
The only time you really need to do anything is if there's a sloppy injury to a tree that has potential to get bugs or infection there- this is usually only wounds that are in a position where they might pool up some water and cause rot.
In those cases, your best bet is to apply tree trunk Goop and reapply when it's washed off now and then by rain or watering. Do so until the wound appears to be healing up well on its own. The formula is roughly:
1/3 each of:
Natural Diatomaceous Earth
Soft Rock Phosphate (Wood Ashes are a suitable substitute)
Mix that in a bucket, add water until it's a paint-able slurry. The Manure Compost feeds the tree at the point of injury boosting health, the Phosphate gives it immediate access to a source for building new plant material, and the diatomaceous earth kills/drives away bad bugs that might try to use the wound as a point of entry to chewing up your tree.
These basics will help you keep your trees happier and healthier. Hope you find them useful.
Shepherd of the Trees
It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succor of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields we know so that those who live after may have clean earth to till.