Editor’s note: “A Better Life” is a new weekly column by the USU Extension – Tooele Office that will focus on a variety of topics intended to enhance quality of life.
Even though you might be longing for spring right now, I’ll bet you aren’t thinking about planting trees. The gardening bug usually doesn’t kick in until we’ve had a few days of warm weather.
It’s not too early to think about planting trees, though; in fact, it might be a little late. But if you are thinking about planting trees this year, you should get started now.
The first thing to do is decide what you want, then find out if it will grow in Tooele County and if it is available from local nurseries. There are some great resources to help you decide on the right tree.
USU Tree Browser is a free online tree program designed specifically to help Utahns with trees. Just type in USU Tree Browser in a Google search or http://treebrowser.org. You can look up all the information on a particular tree. There are great pictures and an explanation of landscape use that will give you an idea of its ability to be successful at your site.
You can also call me or come to my office; I would be happy to talk with you about what tree might be right for your yard. I am a certified arborist and enjoy working with people who want to be successful with trees.
Our Extension Forester Dr. Mike Kuhns, who is on campus in Logan, encourages planting trees that are less common but are known to grow here. I’m not talking about planting a palm tree in Tooele but there are a lot of less commonly planted trees that will work here. Tooele County has a lot of tough conditions — soil salinity and high pH, drought, wind, and heat that make it hard for trees and other plants to thrive. But if you do a little homework and planning, you can be successful and have beautiful, healthy trees.
One of the problems in Tooele County is that we all want shade as soon as possible, so we plant fast growing trees. As a result, we have a lot of cottonwoods and willows. Don’t get me wrong; I love cottonwoods and willows. But there are so many other species we can grow, yet because many of them are slow growing, they are not planted. In general, fast growing trees are weak wooded and relatively short lived, while slow growing trees are generally strong wooded and long lived.
My next door neighbor has a beautiful Burr Oak (Quercus macrocarpa) that is slow growing but is a long lived tree and has few to no problems. Another oak I want to plant is chinkapin oak (Quercus muehlenbergii). I saw one in Kansas last fall. It has unique leaves that make a distinct sound when rustled by the wind. It is one I think may require a special order from the nursery. That is why I am telling you now to get busy and decide what you want. Pick a good, less commonly planted tree and go for it!
Another common problem I see is that many trees are planted too deep. Planting too deep can cause girdling roots and the buried trunk to rot. These problems are not apparent immediately but gradually and increasingly stress trees over time. It is hard to recognize that there is a problem until it has advanced to a serious level. It is an easy problem to avoid when you plant but not easy to correct after the tree is established.
All trees have a root flare at the base of the trunk and you should be able to see it after you are finished planting. If it looks like a telephone pole going in to the ground it is too deep. Dig it up and start over. The publication Planting Landscape Trees will tell you how to avoid digging the hole too deep. This is critical so pay attention.
My favorite time to plant trees is in the fall when the temperatures are cooler and humidity higher, but early spring is just about as good. The worst time to plant is right in the middle of summer. Trees have a hard time adjusting to transplanting, but when it’s 100 degrees and close to zero humidity, it really is difficult for newly planted trees. Most tree problems in the first three years after planting are due to transplanting issues.
Utah State University has some great information on proper tree planting procedures. One of them is called: “Tree Planting Rules” by Michael Kuhns and Dave Mooter. Another is “Planting Landscape Trees” by Margaret Shao and Michael Kuhns. Both of these publications can be found online. Also, don’t forget to check out USU Tree Browser online. Good luck! Call or email me if you have any questions. I would be happy to talk trees.
Linden Greenhalgh is the county director of the USU Extension – Tooele County office, which is located inside the Tooele County Health Department Building, 151 N. Main, Tooele. The phone number is 435-277-2400.