Tree planting distances are important

June 19, 2011 lawanda Newspaper Columns

When my father-in-law passed away in 1997, my husband’s co-workers gave us a nursery gift certificate. We chose a nice ‘Autumn Blaze’ maple and planted it in the back yard, a good distance from all the other trees.
When Grandma Koch saw the new tree, she immediately said it was too close to a mature maple growing behind the house. Well, the tree was already planted, and it was 45’ away from the first tree. Surely she was wrong! Grandma didn’t live to say “I told you so,” but six months after she died, last summer the branches of the two trees touched.
That ‘Autumn Blaze’ isn’t done growing. The branches of the two trees are certain to become more entangled every year.
The lesson here is that before you plant, you must learn the mature height and spread of a tree. Then – don’t estimate, use a tape measure – to ensure proper distance from other trees. You cannot imagine how huge that little sapling you are sticking in the ground will become.
At the same time, consider the distance the tree branches will reach toward your house. If you don’t want branches overhanging the roof, or leaves or seeds in the gutters, move the tree further from the building.
Also take power lines into account. WPS recommends that trees with mature height of up to 20’ be planted 24’ from lines; 20’-45’ mature height should be 24’-48’ away; and 30’-70’ trees should be 48’ or more from wires.
Similarly, think about the tree’s roots. In ideal conditions, roots can spread two to three times further than the branches. Roots can lift up sidewalks, driveways, pathways and fence posts. They’ll be very happy to penetrate small cracks and clog up sewer pipes and septic drainfields.
Tree roots can also damage your home’s foundation, especially in areas with clay soil. While the roots themselves usually don’t do the damage, they can penetrate existing cracks. What is more likely to happen is that they absorb so much moisture from the soil during dry periods that the soil dries and shrinks and causes the foundation to subside.
Here’s another consideration: if you have a pond or water feature, place the tree so that it won’t shade the water. Don’t place the tree to the north or west of it either, as the prevailing winds will blow the leaves right into the water when they fall in autumn.
Before planting, call Digger’s Hotline by dialing 811 or register online at www.diggershotline.com. Within three days, the utility companies that serve your area will come for free and mark the locations of underground pipes and wires. You are legally required to call before you dig and if you damage a buried facility without calling (and you live through it) you are financially responsible for the damage and a fine of $2,000.
Utility companies don’t mark wires you or a private company have installed. Things like invisible pet fences and electric wires to a pond or shed will not be marked.

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