County Extension: Type of land, location is key to planting trees… Part One of Two

RBC I With spring approaching, green thumbers and homeowners are thinking about green lawns, budding trees, colorful flowers, bountiful gardens and taking pride in upgrading the landscape or yard. Planting a tree is one way to enhance a landscape and it brings a focal point to any design.

Successful tree planting and establishment need attention and consideration. The average life of a tree is only eight years, due to tree genetics, poor nursery practices, compromised root systems, lack of care after planting, poor soil, poor design and/or planting techniques.
Before you decide to plant a tree ask yourself these questions to find the perfect location and plant (in addition to protecting your investment, time and efforts).
1. Think about your site needs and limitations: Water needs? Mature size? Growth rates and rooting space? Soil considerations? Management needs? Climate adaptation?
2. Landscape design needs: Why plant? Fruit? Wind break or Noise pollution? Design element? Shading the house or pavement? Adding property value?
3. Tree characteristics: Does it drop leaves? Have fruit? Is it messy? Evergreen or crab apple? What are the seasons of appeal?
Many species of trees and shrubs are well suited to Colorado landscapes. In selecting a tree, remember there is no perfect tree. Select trees based on site considerations as well as personal likes.
Colorado State University Extension publications listing trees and shrubs are available at your local CSU office. In Rio Blanco County, Bill Ekstrom, the CSU Extension agent, recommends the following: linden, narrow leaf cottonwood, hackberry, honey locust, some types of apple and crab apple. Due to potential insect and disease invasions he does not recommend green ash, pine and willow. Give him a call for specifics.
Ways to get trees: trees and shrubs are sold from nurseries in various forms, including bare root (recently dug), container-grown and balled and burlapped (B&B) stock.
Bare root trees and shrubs are sold without an established soil ball and are usually less expensive. However, they dehydrate quickly and must be planted ASAP. Do not buy these trees unless the nursery has healed them in (stored) correctly (check for dead roots).
Container-grown nursery plants are grown in the container. Roots should be numerous but not circling inside the container (avoid buying containers with circulating roots). Because the root system in containerized pots are established they can be readily transplanted throughout the growing season: spring, summer, or fall.
Balled and burlaped stock is dug either from a nursery field or from the wild (called collected stock). To prevent the root ball from breaking, the roots are balled and wrapped with burlap and twine. The weight of the root ball can be an issue with larger-caliper trees and requires equipment or two people to move them.
Steps to planting container grown or balled/burlap nursery stock: (Note: Call before you dig.) Whether you plan on planting the tree yourself or hiring the work done, the site needs to have underground utilities marked before digging to plant a tree. In Colorado, this is easy to do by calling the Utility Notification Center of Colorado at 1-800-922-1987 or 8-1-1.) It can also be done online at The utilities will be marked within 72 business hours, so plan ahead.
The procedures apply to deciduous trees, evergreen trees and shrubs planted in a landscape setting. The goal of planting trees is promoting rapid root growth to reduce the water stress imposed by the limited root system. Watch next week’s paper for more detailed information on planting of trees and shrubs.