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Janet Laminack: With Arbor Day ahead, plant trees now

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, but the second best time to plant one is now. Specifically the fall is the perfect time for planting trees in our area; in fact Arbor Day in Texas is the first Friday of November. Fall planting allows a tree to establish itself in the cooler temperatures of winter and spring.

When choosing trees, people often want a quick-growing tree. Quick growing can mean quick dying, so it’s best to be patient and pick a quality tree. Some good choices for our area include oak trees such as burr, chinkapin, red oak and live oak. Lacebark elm and cedar elm do well, and pecans also make nice shade trees. But pecans are not a good choice for planting over driveways or for the squirrel-adverse.

You can also consider smaller trees or large shrubs such as redbud, crape myrtle, desert willow and wax myrtle. True, these trees won’t be gigantic shade trees, but they can make a positive impact and might be more appropriate and attractive by staying in scale with your home and smaller urban lot. Most trees need to be planted in full sun, but some of the smaller understory trees need some shade such as Japanese maple.

When deciding where to plant a tree, it’s essential to consider its mature size. Consider how big this tree will be in 10, 20 or 30 years. Make sure you don’t plant a tree too close to power lines, buildings or other trees. You also need to check that the tree isn’t too close to anything underground as well. Before you dig, call 811 to have the underground utilities in your lawn marked for free. Planting trees or shrubs might seem like minor digging, but not knowing where underground lines are could put you in danger. For more information, visit www.call811.com.

A few common mistakes when planting a tree are planting too deep, amending the soil and staking for too long. Keep the same soil line on the trunk once you plant it as it was in the container. If this kind of exactness makes you nervous, place the tree slightly higher. Some settling may occur and it is very important to make sure the tree is not too deep. Also, make sure the root flare is exposed on your tree.

Even though it seems like you are being kind to your tree by putting peat moss, potting soil or compost in the hole, you are not. You want to fill the planting hole back with the same soil that was removed. Putting in different soil creates a containerized effect.

Trees rarely need to be staked. This is done to prevent them from popping out of the ground in strong winds. Trees should sway in the wind. This helps them develop rigid bark. Phototropism and geotropism should ensure that the tree grows upright.

Mulching around a tree is recommended, so use about a 3-inch layer. Mulching will help lower the stress of your tree and hopefully prevent the common ailment sarcastically known as “weedeater blight.”

Once the tree is planted, don’t forget about it. For the first three years it will need more care while it gets established such as supplemental water and reducing the competition of weeds and grass. For more details on proper tree planting, check out www.dcmga.com, email us at master.gardener@dentoncounty.com or call 940-349-2892.

Denton residents and businesses, check out the Denton Tree Initiative program of Keep Denton Beautiful for rebates and free trees. Go to www.kdb.org to find out more.

JANET LAMINACK is the horticulture county extension agent with Texas AgriLife Extension. She can be reached at 940-349-2883 or via email at jelaminack@ag.tamu.edu.