Let’s Talk Trees: Trees 101

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17 April 2013

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Did you ever wonder what it took to get a tree from point A to B?

What did that tree go through to get to the store that you are buying it from?

What’s its survival chance?

Think you have a black thumb?

Or were you handicapped through your purchase and you really have a green thumb given the proper beginning?

Does the one year warranty some stores give have any real value?

Let’s break it down!
Trees are grown one of two ways, in a container or in the soil. A containerized tree is easy to spot as it comes in a thick black/green/brown plastic container. The problem with that type of tree is that the person growing it has no way to see what the root system is like and investigate. It is also not grown in the native soil where it will end up. They need to be dug very early and it’s typical that wholesale trees & bushes sit in containers for 2-3 seasons. Big box stores buy their containerized trees and bushes from wholesalers, yes, those too have been sitting.

The other way trees are grown in in soil. But what soil? Are they Connecticut grown? Or are they grown in Oregon/Pacific North West or Tennessee region? You can tell by the soil inside the burlap, red clay like means tennessee, anything else comes from the pacific Northwest. trees are then loaded onto an 18 wheeler and shipped across country out of their natural element for 5-10 days. Next they are unloaded into a hot wholesale lot being irrigated over head waiting for the landscaper to pick them up, up to 2 years!

We’re lucky in Connecticut that we have endless local trees farm where trees have the best chance of being transplanted with minimal shock. Since you’re buying local, you can also “visit” the tree and select it. Wouldn’t you love the chance to hand pick it from a large row instead of it being picked for you?  There are no zonal issues or soil compatibility issues no zonal and compatibility issues.

Trees that are removed from the ground are either hand dug and tied with burlap (my preference) or a tree spade dug it out. Hand dug trees are preferred over spaded trees as the roots are not amputated as they are with tree spades. Masters of their craft such as Randy form Hilltop Gardens in Shelton go through a labor intensive process called root pruning. Digging around the tree as it grows and hand selecting which roots to prune off allows for a more fibrous root system. Interns from all over the country come to learn from farms right here in our backyard.

Now that you have hand selected a hand dug and balled (process of bur-lapping and tying the tree for transport-see photo) remember the 3 step process of trees: sleep, creep and leap. Year one the tree is sleeping and the roots are developing. Year two the tree is still developing roots and you should expect to see canopy activity. Year three your tree will have visible growth. Since it takes three years to know if your tree successfully transplanted, a one year warranty doesn’t add value to the purchase. Pick local, talk to the arborist who will remove the tree from the ground, see examples of his work and ensure it is planted within 7 days of it being removed from the farm.

A newly planted tree, despite rainy weather requires 25 gallons of water a day for the entire first season. Water the root system, not next to the trunk which can lead to disease (see photo). Consider a hose timer that runs on off peak times to save energy and water early morning or late evening when the roots are not competing with evaporation caused by the sun.

Tree looking stressed? Consider compost tea.

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