The Twisted Twig – A Homeowners Guide to Urban Forestry

By Roger DeGood - Guest Columnist

This is the first installment of a series of quarterly articles to be published by the Swanton Tree Commission. These articles are meant to be informative and educational regarding the topic of trees, tree planting, and the care of the urban forest, both public and private. Our mission is to provide the Swanton area residents with information, on a regular basis, on how to properly plant and take care of the trees in their landscape and to increase awareness of their worth to the individual property owner and the community in general.

So here we go, Installment one – It’s fall, time to plant.

Fall is a busy time for Tree People. Even though most of the gardeners out there are thinking of harvest and clean-up, now is the best time for homeowners to think about improving their landscape by planting trees. The heat of the summer is going away but the soil is still warm, the days are shorter, and hopefully there will be more moisture available.

If you are planting the first thing to do is make a visit to the Brochure Bank at Village Hall. There you will find a plethora of valuable information on tree placement, selection, and proper planting techniques. Here are a few things that will help to make your investment successful.

Match the tree species with the soil type in your yard and the space available as it grows. Remember that large-growing trees offer the greatest property value improvements, energy savings, and are the most cost-effective to manage over their (and your) lifetime.

Once you have selected the type of tree you want, call the Ohio Utility Protection Service or OUPS at 8-1-1 or 800-362-2764. This is a free service that locates all the buried utilities in the area you intend to dig. They are extremely timely and usually show up and mark your underground utilities within a few days after calling. Calling them sure beats calling the cable company after you drive your spade through your internet cable…and it’s the law.

Once you have planted according to the instructions provided by the village, we have some other tips:

• Do not fertilize trees. The trees are dormant and you do not want to encourage growth until nature tells the tree to grow. Besides, you matched the tree to your soil which should supply the nutrients the species needs.

• Put down a 1-inch deep layer of compost and a 2-4 inch deep layer of mulch, keeping both at least 4 inches away from the trunk. This will keep stem girdling roots from forming. Piling mulch and other stuff around your trees causes long-term damage and often will kill our baby trees.

• Stake your tree only if necessary, like high wind areas, trees with very small root systems, or if the tree is at risk of someone pulling it over. Remove the stakes within 6-12 months. Left on longer and the tree trunk will not be as strong as Mother Nature intended.

• Watering is critical! The easy way to ensure a steady and uniform amount of moisture is to find a 5-gallon bucket. Put two small holes on opposite sides of the outside bottom edge of the bucket. Small, like 1/16th inches in diameter or the size of a finish nail. Place the bucket at the base of the tree and fill it with water twice a week until the ground freezes, then start again in early April, once the frost is gone. Do this for the first year and the tree will be off to a good start. Do it once a week for the second year and the tree will be off to a great start!

Next time: Winter activities

By Roger DeGood

Guest Columnist