Finding a healthy specimen

Choosing a quality tree is vital to its long-term performance. In this section, I show you what to look for in a tree and how to avoid some of the pitfalls you may not know about until it's too late.

Tree packages

Trees are grown several different ways, with regional differences based on climate and custom. There's no "right" kind of package; here are a few of the most common types:

✓ Containers: Trees are often planted in plastic pots of varying sizes, expressed in gallons. Sizes range from 1 to 15 gallons. In terms of the actual size of the tree, and depending on the species, a "one" (as it's called in the biz) generally is 1 or 2 feet tall, not too impressive at the start but a good way to go if you want fast growth and low cost. A " fifteen" is 5 to 8 feet tall with a caliper (diameter of the trunk) of to 2 inches; it's a great choice for a reasonable-size, fairly inexpensive tree.

Larger trees are contained in tapered wooden boxes running 24 to 72 inches wide and even bigger. The biggest boxed trees need to be planted with heavy equipment and are stunningly expensive. A 24-inch tree isn't a bad way to go, planting out at 12 to 15 feet tall and still young enough to establish well.

  • Balled-and-burlapped: In many regions, trees are grown in the ground and dug up at the time of sale; the root ball is swathed in burlap and fastened with twine or cradled in a wire basket. These balled-and-burlapped (B&B) trees come in various sizes. B&B trees are most often the deciduous kind, dug in the dormant season when they're leafless; plant them as soon as possible after purchase.
  • Bare root: Deciduous fruit and ornamental trees are often sold as bare-root trees in winter, when they're dormant and leafless. Because their roots are exposed, they need to be planted quickly. They tend to be small (6 to 8 feet tall), lightweight, and easy to plant; they're also a snap to evaluate for condition because you can see everything.
  • Transplanted: Established trees can be dug from one place and planted in another with implements ranging from ordinary hand tools to tractor-mounted tree spades. It's best to dig around part of the root system

6 months to 1 year in advance, to allow new roots to develop within the future root ball. Transplanted trees are at high risk for loss but can be a good way to go if you have a good tree in a bad location.

Tree features

Most commercially available trees are grown too tall and skinny; placed too close together in the nursery; and trained to be top-heavy, with lots of canopy on a feeble trunk. Bare-root and B&B trees (see the previous section) tend to be better than containerized ones. A few nurseries grow stocky, robust, real trees. Here are some things to look for in a healthy tree:

Good roots: The root system should be proportional to the canopy and well branched and fresh, displaying a lot of young root shoots. Seeing the whole root system is easy with a bare-root tree. Avoid containerized trees with roots coming out the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot, and follow the other tips on picking healthy plants in Chapter 16. The root ball of a B&B tree should be firm and 10 to 12 times the diameter of the trunk measured 6 inches above the soil. (A tree with a 2-inch trunk should have a root ball 24 inches in diameter, for example.)

Grab the trunk and push it back and forth. A well-rooted tree is immovable; a poorly rooted one wiggles around in the soil. Examine the trunk where it enters the soil, looking for girdling roots that circle one another — a sure sign of problems.

Trunk flare: The trunk of a healthy tree widens as it enters the ground. If you see a trunk that plunges straight into the soil like a telephone pole, that tree has been planted too deeply to do well.

Happy branches and good crotches: The canopy of the tree should be nicely proportioned, with evenly spaced branches. Examine the crotches, which are where branches come together; they should be wide and strong. V-shaped crotches indicate weak attachment and the probability

of catastrophic failure in some future windstorm. Avoid trees with wounds and clumsy pruning cuts that left stubs. Check for cracks where branches meet the trunk. If the tree is tied to a stake, be sure that the ties aren't girdling the trunk.

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Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

How would you like to save a ton of money and increase the value of your home by as much as thirty percent! If your homes landscape is designed properly it will be a source of enjoyment for your entire family, it will enhance your community and add to the resale value of your property. Landscape design involves much more than placing trees, shrubs and other plants on the property. It is an art which deals with conscious arrangement or organization of outdoor space for human satisfaction and enjoyment.

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