Avoiding trouble spots

Trees are a long-term investment, and you're best off if you find them a good home in the first place. Put some thought into the place that's most likely to make your relationship with your tree a comfortable one.

Bring the info on the tree's mature size, and march out boldly into your yard or garden with your tape measure and some means of marking the outline (even a length of garden hose or heavy-duty electrical extension cord will do). Mark the spot, making a big outline. It doesn't have to be precise or perfect — this outline is for the purposes of eyeballing the tree's potential.

Consider the following factors when you situate your tree:

1 The initial dig: Assess your desired location to see whether digging there is possible and practical. Call your utility companies to have them mark where your phone, electric, gas, and sewer lines are before you make any decisions.

1 Root-system potential: Where the roots will end up is a very good question, and tracking down the answer isn't always easy. But you're safe in assuming that the roots will eventually extend farther than the reach of the tree's branches (the drip line, landscapers call this).

Some trees, such as willows, seek water, and they tend to thrive right by the septic system (where they can cause expensive damage). Keep trees away from septic fields. Other trees are shallow-rooted and may uproot the surface of a driveway or sidewalk if you plant them too close.

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