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Henry Clay, IAS Certified Arborist

Plant shade trees now

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Posted: October 27, 2007 5:14 p.m.
Updated: November 11, 2007 5:01 a.m.
    What’s a shade tree worth? It all depends on how large it is, the kind of tree it is and where it is located. For example, it isn’t unusual to place a value of ten thousand dollars or more on a large live oak on coastal property. The value could be higher if several specimen live oaks are strategically located on a given piece of commercial property. Large and smaller shade trees increase the value of residential home-sites substantially versus those sites where trees are non existent. Real estate agents are well aware of this factor when pricing lots for sale.
    It is somewhat criminal to see some developers clear-cut lots prior to building. Viable shade and flowering trees that could have been saved with a little effort are lost forever. The life sustaining qualities that those trees would provide have become non existent. Most communities now have ordinances requiring tree replacement under these circumstances so the clear-cut scenario really seems a bit foolish.
    Speaking of shade and flowering trees, it’s the time of year to plant them in our area of the state. The International Arborist Society recommends that the best time to plant a tree is during the months of November through March. Personally, I think the earlier the better. Soil temperatures remain high enough in the fall and early winter for trees to begin root regeneration and stress on deciduous trees become considerably less. Water becomes less critical as well, due to leaf — shedding. Cooler temperatures result in less stress on evergreen as well.
    Planting trees properly influences survival and determines how well they grow in the future. Recommendations suggest digging the planting hole twice the width of the rootball. The sides can be sloped downward. Do not dig the hole deeper than the root-ball. This prevents planting too deep and settling afterwards. The top of the root-ball should be no deeper than the existing grade. If soils are compacted or drainage is poor, raise the top of the root-ball two inches higher than the surrounding grade and slope the soil to the sides of the root-ball but not over the top. The water ring is formed just outside of the ball for the purpose of directing water over the ball. The water ring of soil should be several inches thick to prevent the sides from collapsing.
    Mulching over the entire root-ball is important. This eliminates grass and weeds that compete for water and prevents loss of moisture during warmer weather. Mulches should be from two to three inches deep. 
    Providing periodic water to the root-ball is one key to tree survival and future growth. During fall and winter watering once per week may suffice. However, watering during the summer may need to be increased to two or more times per week. The trick is to supply enough water to wet the root-ball thoroughly each time.     
    Time wise, trees should be irrigated regularly for a period of a year for every inch of tree caliper. This means two- and three-inch caliper trees should be watered for two to three years respectfully to ensure survival and growth.       
    Container grown trees are handled somewhat differently. After removing the container, be sure to slice downward on at least two sides of the ball to sever roots circling the outside of the soil mixture. Planting at the proper depth is also important. Because container grown trees are grown in a bark mixture, they dry out quicker than field-grown trees. Consequently, they need to be watered more often to prevent the roots from drying out.
    Essentially, the care provided trees after planting is paramount to survival and the key to protecting your investment.
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