Winter's final attempt to wreak havoc on our community ended with downed power lines, holes in roofs and tree debris scattered all around town. Now that most gardeners have removed the broken limbs and brought in professionals to inspect the damage, it is time to start rebuilding. Just as you would replace missing shingles or repair scratched and dented cars, it is time to replant trees blown over by tornado-force winds. Here are some tips to help you repair and replace trees:
¢ Begin the re-planting process by selecting the right tree for the location. To avoid future problems, choose trees that fit the space and fulfill the needs of the site selected. Consider the sun and shade patterns, how wet or dry the soil is, and how much space the tree roots have to grow. And think about final tree size and any problems the tree canopy may cause as it matures. If planting under power lines or in the green strip between the street and sidewalk, consider using Amur maple, Tatarian maple, crab apple, Japanese tree lilac, eastern redbud or Oklahoma redbud. In larger spaces, consider Shantung maple, male Osage orange, callery pear, chinkapin oak, swamp white oak, bur oak, red oak, shumard oak, bald cypress and lacebark elm.
¢ To give your tree the best possible start, select nursery stock that is strong and healthy. Avoid those that have damaged trunks, broken branches or are loose in the pot or root ball. Likewise, avoid trees that are potbound and have large masses of circling roots in a small container. Also, choose trees that have wide branch angle attachments to the trunk. Branches that are attached at narrow angles are more prone to breaking as the tree matures.
¢ Once home, plant the tree on solid ground - not fill dirt. Ideally, the planting hole should be two times the width of the root ball and dug to the same depth. Recent research has revealed that many trees are planted too deep - even in the pot or root ball of a ball-and-burlap tree. Before planting, remove the soil on top of the root ball to expose the first major root. This may mean removing as much as 3, 4 or 5 inches of soil. The first major root should be planted even with the soil line of the planting hole.
¢ At the time of planting, remove the container. Cut away plastic and peat pots. If roots are circling around, cut through them in three or four places with a sharp knife. If you can remove the wire basket and burlap without destroying the root ball, do so. If not, roll them back into the hole and cut away as much excess as possible.
¢ Complete the process by backfilling the hole with the same soil that was removed. Amendments such as peat moss and compost can do more harm than good. Make sure the soil that goes back is loosened - no clods or clumps. Add water as you fill to ensure good root-to-soil contact.
¢ Mulch around the tree. Mulch should be 4 inches deep and cover an area two times the diameter of the root ball. Mulching reduces competition from other plants, conserves moisture and keeps soil temperature closer to what the plants' roots prefer. Stake the tree only if it is necessary. Trees will establish more quickly and grow faster if they are not staked. However, larger trees or those in windy locations may need to be staked the first year.