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Dallas Morning News - November 5, 2020


Tree Planting Finishing Touches


To tie a bow on this tree planting series, let's review the finishing touches for your properly planted tree. If you missed the first steps, they are briefly to choose an adapted tree, pick a good location, dig a rough-sided wide hole, plant the tree slightly higher than ground grade, backfill with nothing but the native soil from the hole and settle the soil with water. Find the details of these steps in the past few columns.


My recommended finishing touches are as much about what not to do, as what to do.


Wrapping trunks doesn't help but actually encourage pests and pathogens

Tight staking always damages the cambium layer and often does severe trunk damage


First of all, do not wrap the trunk with paper, burlap or anything else. It is a waste of time and money, looks ugly, harbors insects (rather than protecting against them) and leaves the bark weak and vulnerable when removed. If you are worried about the chance of sunburn, it is much better to paint the trunk with diluted latex paint that matches the bark color. The tree will grow the paint off as the trunk expands. Healthy trees rarely need even this.


Staking and guying should only be done as a last resort - but is usually unnecessary if a healthy tree has been planted properly. It is unsightly, wastes time and money, adds to mowing and trimming costs, can be dangerous, damages the cambium layer and restricts the tree's ability to move with the wind to develop tensile strength and trunk diameter. Staking actually limits proper tree establishment and growth. In rare circumstances (sandy soil, tall evergreen trees, super windy places, etc.) where the tree needs to be staked, use loose connections so the tree can still move slightly with the wind but never leave on more than one growing season. Remove all tags, ribbons, etc.


Do not thin out or prune much at all after planting. Limit removal to broken limbs, crossing branches and eliminates tight "V" crotches by removing the weakest of co-dominant trunks and limbs. Trees fare better with as much foliage left intact as possible. Even low limbs should be left on the tree for at least two growing seasons to help root development. It's called "trashy trunk." The health of the root system is the key to the overall health of the tree. The more foliage that's left, the more sunlight is collected and the more food produced to help build the roots. The root system grows faster, larger and stronger and your stress-free tree take care of resisting pests, pathogens and parasites itself.


Proper mulching - 3- of shredded native tree trimmings at the outside reducing to 0- at the trunk

Proper planting. Notice the absence of stakes, guying and trunk wrapping


Mulch the bare soil around your newly planted tree with 1" of compost and then 3" of shredded native tree trimmings mulch tapering to 0" at the tree trunk. This step is important in lawns and in beds. Do not plant grass over the tree ball.


Final step? Enjoy your healthy trees or trees.





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