From the Director's Desk: The Right Tree for the Right Site

By Fred Breglia

Trees are often regard­ed as strong plants that will sur­vive almost any­where, but this suc­cess actu­al­ly depends on choos­ing the right tree for the intend­ed site.

Because every species has spe­cif­ic require­ments, select­ing the right tree for the loca­tion and cli­mate zone is crit­i­cal to its long-term sur­vival. The basic grow­ing require­ments include the prop­er light, water, soil, and space. Drainage, soil tex­ture (sand or clay), and soil pH are also fac­tors to deter­mine pri­or to plant­i­ng. Oth­er con­sid­er­a­tions are wind, reflect­ed heat, road salt, and area wildlife. Although it is pos­si­ble for some trees to accli­mate to a vari­ety of con­di­tions, they will always be hap­pi­est when plant­ed where the envi­ron­ment close­ly match­es where they grow in the wild.

It is also impor­tant to think about the role your tree is expect­ed to play. For exam­ple, are you plant­i­ng the tree to cre­ate a hedge for wind or pri­va­cy, or is it going to cre­ate shade for your yard?

Think about what the tree will look like in 20 years. Many times peo­ple plant too close to their home, under over­head wires, or over sep­tic sys­tems. Then in a hand­ful of years the tree that they have spent time nur­tur­ing has to be removed.

A sim­ple site assess­ment can be done pri­or to plant­i­ng, begin­ning with a com­plete soil fer­til­i­ty test that includes pH. You can find instruc­tions for such a test at a Cor­nell Coop­er­a­tive Exten­sion office. (Go to their web­site cce​.cor​nell​.edu to find your local exten­sion.) This test will indi­cate what nutri­ents are avail­able and/​or miss­ing in your soil, ensur­ing a greater suc­cess for your investment.

After you have deter­mined the right tree, it is impor­tant to choose a healthy spec­i­men from the nurs­ery. Look for a good root flair (where the trunk meets the soil) and good branch struc­ture. Foliage will tell you a lot about the health of the tree; it should be even­ly spaced rather than cen­tered at the canopy. Avoid a tree that looks stressed from lack of water or has dam­age along the trunk from poor handling.

For more specifics about tree plant­i­ng, mulching, and prun­ing, vis­it treesare​good​.com.

Summer 2016

Volume 34 , Number 3

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