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Planting the Right Tree in the Right Place

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February 22, 2019

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension service.

Amy Myers: Today we're talking about planting the right tree in the right place. Hello, I'm Amy Myers, and welcome to Farm and Family. Today, we're speaking with John Kushla, Mississippi State University Extension forestry specialist.

So, John, what should folks consider when planting trees in their yards?

John Kushla: Amy, people need to be aware of the available space, as well as evaluate the oil and light conditions for that planting space. For instance, does the site get sun in the morning, in the afternoon, or all day? Then you want to find a tree that will grow well under those conditions. We call this planting the right tree in the right place.

Amy Myers: Okay, that makes sense. Now, why is this so important to do?

John Kushla: Simply, plants have to grow where they are planted, or where their seed falls. By not considering the environmental conditions, people run the risk of the tree dying because it won't grow where it's planted, and we're all familiar with such circumstances. It was too hot, it was too wet, too shady.

Also, by not considering how big a tree grows, when mature, we may plant it in a space that is really too small, and this creates more maintenance for the tree by pruning, and which may eventually deform the tree, or the tree may damage foundations, driveways, or your roof.

Amy Myers: Are soil characteristics also important?

John Kushla: Yes, knowing basic soil properties like texture, drainage, and fertility is necessary. You can look up online, the county soil survey through the Natural Resources Conservation Service Website. You can also submit a soil sample for testing through the Mississippi State University extension. Just get a form and a soil sample box form Amy extension office, return it filled with $8.00 for each sample, and the results will provide information on soil fertility, the pH, and offer a fertilizer recommendation.

Amy Myers: Now, how can folks find a tree the proper size?

John Kushla: Most planting material will have a tag that tells you how big the tree will get when it's grown. Also, many garden centers have employees with knowledge of a wide variety of plant material, and can guide you on which trees would be best. Plant big trees where there's lots of room, and smaller trees for tighter spaces. Trees should be planted at least 20 feet from buildings, pavement to avoid damage from roots.

Amy Myers: So, what characteristics should people look for in a tree to plant?

John Kushla: At the nursery, select healthy looking trees. Make sure there are no cuts through the bark or broken branches. Choose a tree with a single dominant stem, unless you know the species is multi-stemmed, like Crepe Myrtle. Make sure the foliage looks healthy and is not full of spots.

Amy Myers: And how big should the planting hole be?

John Kushla: When digging, the width of the hole should be two to three times the size of the root ball, but the hole should not be deeper than the original container. Before digging, it's very important to call 811. This is a free service to locate buried utilities, and usually takes two to three days. Using the service removes liability from the property owner if a buried line is hit.

Amy Myers: Okay, and how should trees be planted?

John Kushla: Before planting, remove all of the container, the wire basket or burlap, and cut off circling roots. Use the back fill from the original hole. Add water as you're adding soil, to remove air spaces while covering the roots. And then, plant the tree to its original depth, and apply two to four inches of mulch.

Amy Myers: So, give me a summary of what we've talked about today, considering planting the tree in the right place.

John Kushla: So, when you want to plant a tree, consider the site and available space to choose the right tree, for the right place. Have a soil test done. Call 811 before digging to locate buried utilities. If you have further questions, contact me at 662-566-8013, or your local extension office.

Amy Myers: Okay, thank you so much, John. Today we've been speaking with Dr. John Kushla, Mississippi State University Extension forestry specialist. I'm Amy Myers, and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day.

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University extension service.


Department: Forestry

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