Arbor Day was celebrated in Sunbury on Friday, April 27th with the planting of 3 Cypress trees along Prairie Creek in Evening Park. Volunteering their time was Preservation Arborist, Aaron Noblet, and former Councilman, Joe Gochenour.
You can do this, too, at Prairie Creek. Here’s step-by-step instructions:
Make the hole wide, as much as three times the diameter of the root ball but only as deep as the root ball. It is important to make the hole wide because the roots on the newly establishing tree must push through surrounding soil in order to establish. On most planting sites in new developments, the existing soils have been compacted and are unsuitable for healthy root growth. Breaking up the soil in a large area around the tree provides the newly emerging roots room to expand into loose soil to hasten establishment.
Identify the trunk flare. The trunk flare is where the roots spread at the base of the tree. This point should be partially visible after the tree has been planted (see diagram). If the trunk flare is not partially visible, you may have to remove some soil from the top of the root ball (sometimes up to 12” of soil). Make sure you find the trunk flare so you can determine how deep the hole needs to be for proper planting.
Place the tree at the proper height. Before placing the tree in the hole, check to see that the hole has been dug to the proper depth — and no more. The majority of the roots on the newly planted tree will develop in the top 12 inches of soil. If the tree is planted too deeply, new roots will have difficulty developing because of a lack of oxygen. Plant the tree at a depth that allows the base of the trunk flare to be at ground level. This planting level is shown in the above diagram. To avoid damage when setting the tree in the hole, always lift the tree by the root ball and never by the trunk.
Straighten the tree in the hole. Before you begin back-filling, have someone view the tree from several directions to confirm that the tree is straight. Once you begin backfilling, it is difficult to reposition the tree.
Fill the hole gently but firmly. Fill the hole about one-third full and gently but firmly pack the soil around the base of the root ball. Then, if the tree is balled and burlapped, cut and remove the string and wire from around the trunk and top third of the root ball (see diagram). Be careful not to damage the trunk or roots in the process. Fill the remainder of the hole, taking care to firmly pack soil to eliminate air pockets that may cause roots to dry out. To avoid this problem, add the soil a few inches at a time and settle with water. Continue this process until the hole is filled and the tree is firmly planted. It is not recommended to apply fertilizer at the time of planting.
Mulch the base of the tree. Mulch is simply organic matter applied to the area at the base of the tree. It acts as a blanket to hold moisture, it moderates soil temperature extremes (both hot and cold), and it reduces competition from grass and weeds. Some good choices are leaf litter, pine straw, shredded bark, peat moss, or wood chips. A 2-to 4-inch layer is ideal. More than 4 inches may cause a problem with oxygen and moisture levels. When placing mulch, be sure that the actual trunk of the tree is not covered. Doing so may cause decay of the living bark at the base of the tree. A mulch-free area, 1 to 2 inches wide at the base of the tree, is sufficient to avoid moist bark conditions and prevent decay.
Provide follow-up care. Keep the soil moist but not soaked; overwatering causes leaves to turn yellow or fall off. Give your new tree the equivalent of an inch of rain each week. If you receive an inch of rain in a given week, don’t water the tree. If minimal or no rain has fallen in a given week, water your tree. More frequent waterings may have to be conducted during extremely hot weather. Continue until mid-fall, tapering off for lower temperatures that require less-frequent watering. Other follow-up care may include minor pruning of branches damaged during the planting process. Prune sparingly immediately after planting and wait to begin necessary corrective pruning until after a full season of growth in the new location.
Much of the information in the above text has been published by the International Society of Arboriculture as part of its Consumer Information Program. You may be interested in some of the other titles listed below from this series of educational brochures at Trees are Good.Com.
The goal of this on-going project is to create a riparian buffer along Prairie Creek. By acting as buffers between upland areas and open water, trees help filter pollutants such as nutrients and sediment. Healthy riparian vegetation also helps to reduce stream bank erosion, lowers water temperatures through shading, and reduces stormwater run-off which helps to reduce flooding.
Many thanks to Aaron and Joe for their continued support in helping us understand not only the beauty, but the importance of trees in our community.
Information for this article was provided by June Rhodes-Diehl from the Village of Sunbury.