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Selecting & Planning for the Right Trees

Proper tree care begins with selecting the right tree and planting it in the right place. Trees are for a lifetime, so it pays to spend time now making sure that your tree will thrive where you want to plant it.


Southdale will help you select the right tree for the right place.


Wrong Trees, Wrong Places: Planting large trees under utility lines can eventually mean mutilated trees as they grow to maturity. Large evergreens close to the house on the south block warming winter sunlight. No trees on the north side of the house can leave it vulnerable to icy winter winds.


The Right Tree in the Right Place: With careful planning, you can produce a landscape that will cool your home in the summer and protect it from the winter winds. A well-planned yard will contain trees that grow well in the soil and moisture of your neighborhood, avoid collisions with power lines and buildings, as well as increase your property value.


When planning the landscape of your yard, take these tree variables into consideration:

  1. Height. Will the tree bump into anything when it is fully grown?

  2. Canopy Spread. How wide will the tree grow?

  3. Is the tree deciduous or coniferous? Will it lose its leaves in the winter?

  4. Form or shape. Are you looking for a tree to take up less space or provide more shade?

  5. Growth rate. How long will it take for your tree to reach its full height?

  6. Soil, sun and moisture requirements.

  7. Fruit. Be considerate of where the fruit is going to drop.

  8. Hardiness zone. Select a tree that can withstand the soil temperature extremes.

Selecting a Healthy Tree

Good tree care starts with a healthy tree. Follow these tips and learn how to buy a tree.


Inspecting your tree upon delivery or at Southdale Nursery & Garden will help your tree provide a lifetime of benefits.

  • Ball & Burlap Tree (B&B): Firm soil ball, with trunk securely tied. Do not accept a plant with a broken 'ball'. Do not accept a tree with circling roots at the base of the trunk. Always carry B&B plants by the soil ball, not the trunk, stems, or branches.

    • Root ball should be firm to the touch, especially near the trunk

    • Root ball should be adequate for the tree's size.

  • Container Tree: Avoid trees that are 'root-bound' in the can. Roots can circle around the edge of the container may become circling roots. (Cut any circling roots when planting). Because of this, B&B trees are generally preferred for large trees. Always remove can, basket or pot when planting.

    • Pot should not contain large, circling roots.

    • Pruned roots cut cleanly, none wider than a finger.

    • Soil & roots joined tightly.

The Importance of Mulching

A newly planted tree's best friend is mulch. It is very important to remember to mulch your tree after you have planted it.


Mulch is valuable for your trees health and care because:

  • Mulch insulates the soil helping to provide a buffer from heat and cold temperatures.

  • Mulch retains water helping to keep the roots moist.

  • Mulch keeps weeds out to help prevent root competition.

  • Mulch prevents soil compaction.

  • Mulch reduces lawn mower damage.

Steps to Adding Mulch Around Your Tree

  1. Add mulch to the base of your tree by removing any grass within a 3 to 10 foot area depending on the size of your tree.

  2. Pour natural mulch such as wood chips or bark pieces 2 to 4 inches deep within the circle.

  3. Keep the mulch from touching the trunk of the tree.

Tree Watering

Tree watering is a key part of tree care and it is difficult to recommend an exact amount due to the varieties of climates. But a few guidelines will help you water your trees properly.

  • Watering Newly Planted Trees: For new trees, water immediately after you plant a tree.

  • Watering Trees During the First Two Years: During the first couple growing seasons, your newly planted tree is expending a lot of energy trying to get its roots established in the soil. Especially during the first few summers of your new tree life, it will have a difficult time dealing with heat and drought. You can make this easier by providing water and covering the soil with wood-chip mulch.

  • How Much Water and When: Not enough water is harmful for the tree but too much water is bad as well. Over-watering is a common tree care mistake. Please note that moist is different than soggy, and you can judge this by feel. A damp soil that dries for a short period will allow adequate oxygen to permeate the soil. As a general rule, your soil should be moist. Usually 30 seconds with a steady stream of water from a garden hose per tree seedling is sufficient.

  • Watering Trees After the First Two Years: After your tree has been established in your yard for two years the roots will be established. This will allow your tree to withstand a wider range of water conditions including on its own because it has a proper root structure.


When to Prune

This depends to a large extent on why you prune. Light pruning and the removal of dead wood can be done anytime. Otherwise, here are some guidelines, but recognizing that individual species may differ is important to remember.


Winter Pruning

Pruning during dormancy is the most common practice. It results in a vigorous burst of new growth in the spring and should be used if that is the desired effect. It is usually best to wait until the coldest part of winter has passed.


Summer Pruning

To direct the growth by slowing the branches you don't want or to slow the development of a tree or branch, pruning should be done soon after seasonal growth is complete. The reason for the slowing effect is that you reduce the total leaf surface, thereby reducing the amount of food manufactured and sent to the roots. Another reason to prune in the summer is for corrective purposes. Defective limbs can be seen more easily, or limbs that hang down too far under the weight of the leaves.

When Not to Prune: Fall

Because decay fungi spread their spores profusely in the fall and healing of wounds seems to be slower on cuts, this is a good time to leave your pruning tools in storage.

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