National Arbor Day is always the last Friday in April, putting it on April 25th this year. Are you ready to plant a tree? If not, Rhonda Ferree, Horticulture Educator with University of Illinois Extension, says that you can plant one soon or start planning for the next Arbor Day.
"Recent research has shown that improperly planted trees can suffer in later years". "Therefore, follow these recommendations when planting trees".
Ferree says that it is imperative to consider how big your trees will grow. "Always place plants where they can achieve their mature size". Avoid planting under or near overhead utility lines or too close to buildings. Choose the right plant for the right place. University of Illinois Extension's website Selecting Trees for Your Home can help you select the right tree for you at http://urbanext.illinois.edu/treeselector/.
Soil amendments and root stimulants are helpful, but not a necessity when planting a tree or shrub. The most critical point is to plant the tree at the exact same level it stood in the nursery. The soil lines should match up exactly. If you must error, plant them more shallow instead of too deep. Trees planted too deep will suffer in later years.
"It is best to plant your trees immediately" says Ferree. If you can't because of weather or soil conditions (or available time), store in a cool place. If it is a bareroot plant, remove the covering to prevent mold growth, but keep the roots damp with occasional misting. If it a container or balled & burlap plant, check it daily to see if it needs watered because they dry out very quickly.
Mulch is a tree's best friend. Good organic mulch will serve three main functions for the tree. It will help maintain a constant soil temperature around the roots, keeping them cooler for better growth. Mulch also helps retain soil moisture, thus keeping the plant from drying out so quickly. Most importantly mulch controls weeds by preventing weed germination and suffocating some existing weeds. Mulch also improves appearance, controls erosion, simplifies maintenance, reduces soil compaction, and protects the trunk from mowers and weed-trimmers.
University of Illinois Extension recommends you use organic mulch applied to a depth of 2 to 4 inches around the base of the plant. Ferree also says to "Pull the mulch away from the tree trunk area just a bit to assure proper airflow around the sensitive area".
Finally, water your new tree generously following planting. After that the tree will only need about an inch of water a week. Ferree says that it is best to water thoroughly every week or 10 days if there is no rain instead of watering a little bit each night. The entire tree's roots need water not just those in the upper layers of soil.
Consider planting a tree on Arbor Day. Future generations will thank you!