Do you celebrate Arbor Day? The state of Idaho and many communities are observing it over the next few days by planting new trees. And if you’re thinking about planting a tree, we have some tips for you.
A couple of Boise tree experts showed us the proper way to plant a new tree so it gets off to a good start. There is also a community project that can help you get new trees planted for free.
Boise is known as the City of Trees. So with Arbor Day approaching, it makes sense that planting trees would be the best way to observe Arbor Day. But planting a tree is more than just sticking it in a hole in the ground. If you want it to grow to be a healthy, thriving tree for years to come, there are some important things you need to keep in mind.
When selecting a tree to plant, consider the location. Remember, this tree is going to grow much bigger. Make sure it’s healthy, with good branch spacing and normal-colored foliage.
First thing - dig a hole.
“Well, the important thing about the hole is you want to dig a shallow but wide hole – the wider the hole the better,” said Boise City Nursery manager Ryan Rodgers. “I like to say, dig from coast to coast, not to China. Most of the time your hole’s only going to be maybe a foot to 18 inches deep, depending on how big your tree is.”
Dig the hole so that the when the tree is planted, the root flare will be right at the top of the hole.
“So what we’re looking for is this first major root here," said Rodgers. "You can see it starts to flare out where it transitions from trunk to root. So we want our hole to be no deeper than that.”
Take the tree out of the container. If the roots are wrapped in burlap, remove it. Then spread out the roots.
“So just go ahead and fluff those up, kind of get them so they’re no longer growing in that circular direction,” said Rodgers.
Next, tamp down the base of the hole so the tree has a firm foundation to sit on and won’t settle too much.
“So it’s a good idea to measure your depth, especially on larger trees, so you’re not going to dig your hole any deeper than you have to," said Rodgers. "So that’s about as deep as we want this. Lay something across your hole. So you see we’re pretty close right there.”
Some new trees come with a little dot of paint on the trunk, marking the side of the tree that faced north as it was growing.
“So when you plant your tree in a new location, orient your tree to the north as well," said Rodgers. "That southwest side was already becoming the tougher side of the tree that’s exposed to the most harsh elements.”
Now set your tree in the hole.
“We’re in now. Double check that we’re at the right height," said Rodgers. "That’s right where we want it. Our root flare is going to be a little bit above grade. And now you can start to backfill.”
Use the same soil that you took out of the hole. If you have poor soil, you can amend it by mixing in a little compost before you put it back in the hole.
“So before your hole is completely backfilled, it’s a good idea to water it in," said Rodgers. "This will help settle out your air pockets. Now’s the time to also make sure you’ve got your tree straight. So look at it from both directions.”
You don’t always have to stake a newly planted tree, unless it’s in a windy location. Most trees will grow healthier without staking. But if you do, don’t leave it on for more than a year.
“Now one thing that we’re going to do is we’re going to build a moat, and that’s going to help hold the water around the root ball,” said Debbie Cook, Boise City Forestry specialist.
Then keep it well-watered as it gets established.
“This is the most important thing – not to over water or under water – but keep that soil nice and moist.”
Boise maintains its urban forest by continuously replacing old, diseased or dying trees, partly through a program called Releaf Boise, coming up on April 30.
“We plant free trees on public right-of-ways," said Cook. "They’re planted by a really dedicated group of trained volunteers. And this year we’re going to be planting about 85 trees.”
This tree is off to a good start, and like thousands of others, it will provide important benefits to our community, not only for its beauty, but its shade will help reduce energy costs in the summer, and improve our air and water quality. And by planting a tree in your yard, you’ll get those benefits, and add value to your property.
Here are a few Arbor Day events coming up in the next week:
Each year, Boise observes Arbor Day by planting a tree at an elementary school. That happens Friday at Hawthorne Elementary School at 1:30 p.m.
The following Friday, April 29, the state of Idaho will commemorate the day by planting an additional flowering cherry tree at Capitol Park.
And Releaf Boise will be on Saturday, April 30. For more information contact the Boise Parks and Recreation Department.