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Great Trees From Little Efforts Grow

June 06, 1992|From Associated Press

Establishing trees on a lot is an important step, and landscaping professionals suggest buying the largest trees possible.

However, there is another factor even more important than cost: The faster the trees grow, the sooner homeowners have cooling shade and a look of permanence for the lot.

Homeowners sometimes lose or stunt young trees because of some common mistakes. Lack of water is the biggest. It takes a new tree up to three years to develop roots to make up for those lost in transplanting. During that time, they are vulnerable to drought.

Moreover, when first transplanted, trees have so few roots that they may not even be able to take up all the water available.

If new trees wilt badly, prune some of the top branches to balance the loss of roots. Shower the foliage until wilting stops. To water the roots, make a doughnut-like depression a few inches deep 2 to 3 feet from the trunk so water will not run off. Not long ago, a dish-like depression extending the same distance around the tree was considered ideal. But the doughnut works better because it prevents puddling around the trunk, where water could cause rot.

Water deeply--as much as 5 gallons for a 3- to 4-foot tree--each week that there is less than one inch of rainfall.

Wrapping and staking is sometimes required by nurseries if their guarantee is to be honored.

Wrapping the lower trunk with tree wrap or heavy paper will prevent sunburn until the canopy of leaves grows enough to shade the trunk. Wrapping also prevents some damage from insects and power tools, such as lawn mowers and trimmers. Use masking tape and leave the wrap in place. It will eventually rot off.

Staking was, until recently, a rule without exception. New research, however, has shown that some sway is necessary for trees to develop strength and resilience. Too much swaying will keep the roots constantly under stress and prevent them from settling and spreading.

Use the minimum staking necessary, perhaps none for small transplants. Remove ties to test the tree for strength, and take out stakes when they're not needed.

Another danger to trees is girdling. This often happens to new trees that come with a wire label loosely attached. As the tree grows, the trunk or branch grows so much in circumference that the wire is embedded in the bark. Growth will then be restricted, and there will be a swelling above this point.

Girdling can kill a tree quicker than any type of injury because it can entirely cut off the flow of nutrients and water to the branches farther up the tree.

To avoid girdling, remove anything that could bind. Run guy wires through pieces of hose, and remove them as soon as they are no longer needed. When possible, tie branches with soft string or pieces of nylon hose that will stretch or break before they bind.

Nicks and injuries from power tools probably kill more trees than anything. Modern lawn mowers can skin away bark and leave the inner layers open to insects and disease. String trimmers can do even more damage.

The best way to avoid this is to mulch the area around the trunks of trees so there is no need to go near them for trimming.

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