Drive around any neighborhood in Dayton and you’ll likely see maple trees, oaks, crabapples, ash and various pines. Unfortunately, it’s not unusual to see the maples slowly destroying sidewalks and driveways, chlorotic oaks, crabapples with fireblight, ash that are dying from Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) infestation, and pines releasing clouds of allergy-inducing pollen each spring.
>> See our Tree Care Resources page for details on chlorosis, fireblight, EAB and other tree problems.
Many of these trees aren’t properly sited, leading to unnecessary stress and eventual decline from pests and disease.
So what does it take to plant the right tree in the right place?
STEP 1 – Check Your Property
Be familiar with the environmental conditions of the location in which you want to plant.
Here are some important things to look for in understanding the conditions on your property:
- Hardiness zone – We’re in zone 6a (although some areas may be slightly warmer or colder) so don’t choose trees that are only hardy to zone 7 or above.
- Soil type and condition – Understand the pH, organic matter content and drainage of your soil. Here in Dayton we have clay-based, alkaline soils that don’t drain well and tie up micronutrients like iron, making them unavailable to the tree (you’ll often see yellowing leaves, or chlorosis, because of this). You may need to add amendments to increase the proportion of organic matter in the soil (ideally, it should be around 5%). Given our limestone subsoil, any soil amendments to lower pH are only effective for a very short while so we generally don’t recommend doing that.
- Amount of sun – This ranges from full shade (no directly sunlight – usually on the north side of a building or under evergreen trees) to full sun (at least 8 hours of direct sunlight). A tree that needs full sun simply won’t do well if planted in the shade of a large pine or building, and vice versa.
- Wind exposure – Wind can directly damage trees that have weaker branches, poor structure or have been improperly pruned. And winter winds suck the moisture out of broad-leaved evergreens, resulting in trees and shrubs with brown, curled leaves (if desiccation is particularly bad, it can even kill the plant).
- Available space – Look at things like proximity to houses, fences, walkways and driveways, decks and electrical lines. Planting an oak in the 6-foot space between suburban houses or a white pine underneath power lines just isn’t going to work.
- Access to irrigation or a water spigot – You’ll need to water a newly-planted tree regularly so make sure you have easy access to sprinklers, irrigation emitters or a garden hose.
STEP 2 – Choose Your Tree
Understand the mature size of the tree. That perfect little cherry tree may turn out to be a 60′ foot monster, rather than the 15′ specimen you envisioned. And don’t forget the spread – a dwarf Alberta spruce planted next to your front porch will soon cover the stairs with it’s prickly branches.
Choose a tree that grows well in your conditions. Be honest about your site. For example, understand how much sun you really have. Four hours in the morning is not “full sun”. If you’ve always wanted a copper beech but your property has clay soil and overhanging electrical lines, look for something else.
Decide which features are most important to you. Trees come in all sizes, shapes and colors. Some are evergreen (they keep their leaves or needles through the winter). Some flower in spring, others turn gorgeous shades of red, orange and purple in fall, and others bear edible fruit. Some are more prone to diseases and so will need frequent treatment, while others require little care. They grow at different rates and have different expected lifespans. Before shopping for a tree, decide which options best fit your needs.
If you’re unsure about which tree is best for your location, give us a call. Our Certified Arborists are able to recommend trees that will grow well in your specific conditions.
STEP 3 – Choose the Right Planting Site
Carefully consider where you’re going to plant your new tree. A tree is an investment that appreciates with time – but only if you plant the right tree in the right place.
Do you plan to do any major landscaping or construction in the next few years? Are you looking for summer shade to cut down on cooling costs? More privacy from the neighbors? Something to frame a beautiful view?
One common mistake is to plant a tree in the middle of the lawn. Not only does this look unnatural, but the constant watering and fertilizing of the grass encourages fungal and disease problems in the tree. Mowing and using a string trimmer on the grass around the trunk damages the bark, leaving entry wounds for all kinds of harmful pests and pathogens.
>> Learn how to properly plant a tree.
In the end, it’s really all about the tree. Do what’s right for the tree and it will reward you with many years of healthy growth.
And, of course, if you have any questions give us a call. We’re always happy to discuss options for what to plant, where to plant it and if you’d like, we’ll even plant it for you!
For our top recommendations in the Dayton area, see these articles: