Different trees exist to fit every kind of need and situation. Choosing the right tree to plant will be beneficial for its natural growth and form, as well as increasing the tree's life and vigour. From choosing the right tree for the site to preparing your soil and learning how to properly plant, here is all of the information to get started on planting your trees!
Here are some guidelines to make sure you choose the right tree:
1) Decide what you want the tree to do. Do you want to feed birds? Pick apples? Do you want a privacy screen? Pinpoint exactly what functions you want the tree to fulfil so you choose the best one.
2) Do your research. Look for things like hardiness, mature size, longevity, light/water requirements, fruit/berry production and insect/disease problems.
3) Call us! Parks Operations is passionate about trees and we love to help residents choose the best tree (or shrub, or flowers) for their yard. One that will do everything you want it to do and live a long, long time.
It is important to prepare your site before planting so your tree is happy and healthy. Here's what to check:
1) Light. Trees need light to make food, so very few of them thrive in low light or full shade. Choose a site that gets at least 6 hours of full sun every day.
2) Exposure. We all know how harsh Grande Prairie's climate can be, with winter temperatures plummeting below -40°C and thaws that can bring +10°C in January. Exposing a tender young tree to the full brunt of our west winds may shorten it's life considerably by causing desiccation or sunscald, or kill it outright. A little bit of shelter from the wind can go a long way.
3) Drainage. Tree roots are like people - they need to breathe air. If you want to plant a tree in an area of your yard that is perpetually waterlogged, you are going to be limited in what you can choose. Alternatively, you can fix any drainage issues in your yard before planting.
4) Soil. Most trees prefer rich topsoil with high organic matter to grow in. Unfortunately, most urban soils are compacted, heavy clay, often high in salts and pollutants. Before planting your tree, kill all competing grass one meter around the trunk and dig in ample amounts of topsoil and compost (or peat moss or manure).
The City of Grande Prairie completes its tree planting program in the fall beginning in late September.
There are two preferred planting times - the spring and the fall. Avoid planting during the heat of midsummer especially if supplemental irrigation is not available.
Spring Planting - Late May or June is preferred. Spring planting allows the plant to replace some of the roots lost when it was dug out of the tree nursery. By fall there are more roots present to capture water and help the plant fend off winter desiccation. This is especially important for evergreens.
Fall Planting - This is dormant season planting. Plant deciduous trees after the leaves have fallen and coniferous plants about the same time. These plants will wait until next spring to grow out into the backfill soi
The most important thing when planting is to 'get your height right.' Trees have a natural point (called the root flare) that they want to be planted at. Plant them too deep and their trunk will rot and their roots will suffocate. Plant too high and the roots will be exposed and winterkill or start suckering. Pull the tree out of its pot and examine the roots. Unfurl wrapped roots and snip any girdling roots circling tight to the trunk. Tamp the soil firmly around the tree as you plant and water well. Mulch the tree with 3-4 inches of wood chips out to the dripline. Turfgrass around trees steals precious water and stunts plant growth. Grass should never touch a tree.
Don't spend your hard-earned money purchasing a wonderful, healthy tree only to neglect it after it's planted. Water is the most important nutrient that limits plant growth in Alberta, so keeping your young tree well-watered will help it grow quickly and strongly. The smaller the tree is when it's planted, the more often it will need watering if no rain falls. In general, a good deep soak once per week on a well-drained site will keep your young tree happily growing all season. Stop watering in mid-August to allow the tree to harden off for winter, and then give it one last good soak after it's dormant but before the ground freezes solid.