How to add trees to beautify your home landscape

Editor’s note: Get Growing, written by the La Plata County Extension Office’s Master Gardener Program, appears every other week during the growing season. It features timely tips and suggestions for your garden and landscape.

By Laura Candelaria

Success with trees begins with careful tree selection and thoughtful planting location. A few tree-planting guidelines will help your new trees thrive and become valuable components of your home landscape.

Select a species and variety that has proven to do well in our area and will serve the desired purpose, such as shade, privacy screening or energy conservation.

When preparing to plant, dig the planting hole to the depth of the root ball and taper the hole so that the top of it is two to three times the width of the root ball. It may be tempting to dig a hole barely wider than the root ball, but widening the upper portion of the hole to create a dish shape is worthwhile investment. The most vigorous root growth occurs in the upper inches of the soil, where water and oxygen are readily available to the tree.

The most common mistake is planting trees too deeply. Look for larger roots within one to three inches of the soil surface, as there often is some extra soil or substrate covering the root ball. Avoid adding loose soil back to the bottom of the planting hole, as it tends to settle with watering, causing the tree to sink below optimal depth. The top of the root ball should be even with the surface of the surrounding soil, or slightly higher in cases of poor drainage.

Backfill the hole with the same soil that has been removed from it. Research has shown no consistent benefit from adding organic matter to backfill soil under typical conditions. Minimize air pockets when backfilling, gently compacting the soil to make sure the tree is vertical and adequately stabilized.

Trees are an attractive and valuable addition to the home landscape, and getting them off to a good start prevents problems and maximizes the benefits of your investment.

Laura Candelaria has been a Colorado master gardener since 2010. She lives in La Plata County.