To be happy for a year, plant a garden. To be happy for a lifetime, plant a tree.

Snow is melting, robins are at the feeders, Everything is starting to flower and the urge to till the soil comes upon you- it must be spring!

It’s also time to Celebrate Arbor Day,  April 26th, 2019 (Always the last Friday in April in New York State.) 

Trees planted by homeowners often commemorate a pleasant event; a new home, a birth, a marriage and so on. Trees should be chosen and planted so they can last a lifetime. Here are some tips to plant the proper tree. .

List some of the trees you’d like and choose your site. When choosing your planting area, look up. Roof line, wires, other trees etc should be taken into consideration. Measure the planting area. The measurements need to include the projected size of the tree. Trees grow, they’ll need room. Most catalogues, journals and reference books will provide tree sizes upon maturity. Go to an Arboretum with your list in hand. See the trees in a natural environment in their true forms. It is best to pick a tree that will be suitable for its future home. Planning to prune a tree to make it fit a site is always a bad idea. The pruning gets more difficult over the years and the tree never attains its aesthetic potential. 

Try to avoid the commonly used plants: Bradford pear, Purple plum, Crabapple. A monoculture of these plants is rapidly spreading as will any pest that may come along. We learned that lesson with the American chestnut, American elm, Mimosa, and others. There are hundreds of beautiful trees that will serve you well. Explore the lesser used or native plant options for years of enjoyment.

When you’ve adopted your new friend, make sure to plant it well so it will establish rapidly. Long Island has some of the best soil in the world. Amendments are usually NOT needed when planting. Aged, living compost is the only amendment that should be used. Peat moss is not compost and can actually cause quite a few problems. The hole needs to be only as deep as the root ball, and twice the diameter. The new roots will spread horizontally not vertically. 

ALL twine, baskets and burlap MUST be removed once the tree is in its planting hole. Cut any broken roots you see to allow proper renewal. The ‘root flare’ (where trunk becomes root) must be at soil level. The tree should not look like a telephone pole when planted, the base must show a flare or your tree is too deep. Roots must have oxygen which is why they grow near the soil surface. 

Wrapping the trunk and staking are not recommended except in municipal situations.  Mulch is very beneficial to all plantings. Mulch ‘volcanoes’ are a new landscape form and very destructive to tree trunks.  Mulch should be no more than 1.5”- 2” thick, starting 1” from the root fare. If rocks are used they must be kept min 2” from the root flare and moved away every year. NO landscape fabric, it wicks water away from the roots and does not prevent weeds.  Water should be provided immediately after planting. Soil should be kept moist until roots are established, usually a full season.  

You’ve just planted a lifetime of happiness. Now set up the lawn chairs, get some iced tea and enjoy the new addition to your family!  Happy Arbor Day!