Considerations for Tree Planting

        Is it time to add a new tree to your landscape?  There are many more considerations than “I’ve always wanted a maple tree.”  Not to discourage you from planting a tree – it is a noble undertaking – but below is a list of items to consider before you start.  Putting the right tree in the right place will ensure success.

  • Soil conditions:  Is it dry, wet or does it vary by time of year?  Choose a tree that will thrive in your soil.
  • Light conditions:  Will the tree be in full sun or will it be shaded by other trees or buildings?  Again, match your tree choice to your light conditions.
  • Climate:  In Winnebago County we are in USDA Hardiness Zone 5a, which means out winter low winter temperatures generally don’t get below -20ﹾF.  We can safely plant trees recommended for Zones 5a or lower.  If you are going to go to the work and expense of planting a tree, don’t try to take a chance on one that is hardy to a zone above 5a, hoping you’ll get lucky.  You probably won’t.
  • Height and width:  Research how big the tree will get and believe it.  Consider future generations and property owners as well.  Just because the tree won’t get big enough for its branches to hang over your roof or for its roots to buckle your sidewalk in your lifetime isn’t sufficient. 
    • Look up!  Trees that grow more than 20 feet tall shouldn’t be planted under or within 15 feet of powerlines.  Power utilities send crews out every few years to trim branches away from powerlines and the results are never pretty.  Perhaps a tall shrub would be better in this location.
    • Look down!  Make sure you know where underground utilities are buried.  Before you dig, contact Diggers Hotline at 1-800-242-8511 or to have someone come, free of charge, to mark underground utility locations. 
    • Look down again!  Do not plant a tree over a septic system.  The roots will break through the pipes in their search for warmth and water and you’ll have a real mess. 
    • Look sideways!  Large trees should be planted at least 35’ away from your home (and your neighbor’s home) to make certain that branches don’t brush the house or hang over your roof, and that roots do not damage your foundation.
  • Consider your current view.  Don’t accidentally plant your new tree where it will interfere with what is now a beautiful view.  You might think about how your new tree will affect your neighbor’s view as well.
  • Think about what you want the tree to do?  Provide shade?  Put on a fantastic fall color display?  Block a bad view?  Provide a windbreak?  Provide food or shelter for wildlife?  You can find long lists of trees that satisfy each of these categories on the internet or in books.
  • How much maintenance will the tree need and are you capable of doing it?  Some trees drop some kind of “mess” all year long in the form of flowers, seeds, tiny twigs, etc.  Others are relatively clean, dropping only leaves in fall.  Some need pruning when they are young to direct their growth.  All trees will need supplemental water for at least the first two years.

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