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Out of the Woods

Out of the Woods Viewer's Guide

Beginning Your Tree Planting Project

Start your planting project with a vision. Set your sights on what you want to accomplish. Envision what the tree will look like at maturity. Consider the site location, soil type and condition. Is soil compaction evident? Trees do not grow well in compacted sites, and many trees cannot grow in too much moisture. Their roots may be deprived of needed oxygen.

Check to see what is above the tree. Look for overhead utility lines. Contact your local utility companies and avoid conflict with utilities that are located underground. Will the tree eventually grow tall enough to cause a problem?

Other factors to consider are:

Special Occasion Trees

Maybe you would like to plant a tree to enhance wildlife in your yard. You may want to plant a tree in remembrance of a loved one, a birth or a wedding anniversary. Planting a tree with your family on a special day is another means of expression. Whatever the occasion, you can find a suitable tree to express your sentiments.

Select Planting Site Carefully

Be sure to look up! Overhead power lines are often overlooked. If you must plant a tree near a power line, make certain it is a species that will not typically exceed thirty feet in height. Excellent trees for planting near power lines are:

Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
Height 30" - Great understory tree with heart-shaped leaves and profuse rose-colored flowers in early spring.

Serviceberry (Amelianchier canadensis)
Height 20" - Covered with white flowers in early spring, Serviceberry trees produce edible maroon berries relished by birds.

Dogwood (Cornus florida)
Height 30" - This tree has beautiful lacy white spring flowers that are lovely sights after a long hard winter.

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The Dos and Don'ts of Tree Planting

When planting trees, the Do and Don't list provides valuable guidance. Since you have already picked the best species for the planting site, here is assistance to protect your investment.

Do inspect plant material before accepting a shipment. Look for damaged trunks, broken branches, kinked or "J" roots, etc.
Don't assume top quality plants were shipped to you.

Do learn the nursery industry standard for new trees. If you don't know, ask. If the nursery is vague or will not answer, consider a different source.
Don't think that standards don't matter.

Do measure root balls and trunks with calipers or other proper equipment.
Don't guess at measurements. You are paying by the inch, so get what you pay for.

Do replenish mulch every six months if needed.
Don't allow vines, weeds and grasses to grow too close to the tree.

Do prepare a planting hole of proper dimensions (at least twice the width of the root ball, more if possible), and avoid compacting the sides of the hole.
Don't dig too deep.

Do check with utility companies before digging near underground utilities.
Don't guess where underground utilities are located.

Do handle the tree using the straps or hooks.
Don't move the tree by holding the base of the trunk.

Do cut the first rung or two of the wire basket from the root ball.
Don't cut or break roots while cutting wire.

Do cut nylon straps from the top of the root ball and pull back burlap.
Don't leave burlap exposed. It wicks water out of the soil, drying out the root area.

Do plant the tree at the same level it grew in the nursery (or slightly higher in poorly drained soils).
Don't plant too deep (below ground level) or too shallow (root ball exposed).

Do stake a tree if it is top heavy or has a tendency to move with the wind.
Don't leave stakes on beyond the first growing season.

Do mulch the soil area immediately around the tree, covering the entire root ball, and then some more.
Don't apply mulch too deep (more than four inches is too much) or too close to the trunk (touching the bark at the base is too close).

This information was reprinted with permission from the Arkansas Forestry Commission, Urban and Community Forestry, Technical Bulletin #3

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Arkansas Urban Tree Planting List

Careful selection of the proper tree for a planting space is important. It will extend the life of the tree, make it more useful, and cost less in the end. The following is a list of trees, by size, that grow well in Arkansas and make excellent urban trees.

Small Trees (35 feet and under in height)

Medium Trees (35 feet to 50 feet in height)

Large Trees (50 feet or more in height)

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Common Soil Problems

The health of trees depends on the soil within the root zone. This saucer shaped root zone contains most of the tree¹s roots in the first twelve inches of soil. The diameters of most root zones are approximately one to two times the height of the tree.

Suffocation - Suffocation can occur when urban related activities, such as ground compaction, filling or flooding over root zones, deprive trees of essential oxygen needed to maintain healthy root systems. These activities close soil pores or air spaces, leading to eventual root suffocation.

Over watering - Excessive watering fills the small openings within soil, which allows air to reach tree roots. Trees planted in soil with a high clay content can also drown. Heavy, deep watering once a week is better than shallow daily watering. Ideally, trees should receive approximately one inch of water during each deep watering.

Compaction - Compaction occurs when automobiles, foot traffic or heavy equipment pack the soil down. Soil compaction also causes roots to suffocate. Preventing compaction is the key to protecting root systems.

Filling or Paving - Paving near trees frequently deprives the roots of needed oxygen. By careful planning and the use of retaining walls, you can avoid filling over root systems, and add years of life to trees.

Nutritional Deficiencies - Proper tree growth depends on sixteen essential nutrients. Nutrient deficiencies show up as leaf or needle discoloration and abnormal growth patterns. Fertilization corrects this problem. Avoid fertilizers containing herbicides that harm trees. Fertilizers containing excessive nitrogen should not be used near young trees. High nitrogen fertilizers cause accelerated top growth creating an imbalance between the crown and root system.

The pH Factor - Nutrient absorption relates directly to soil pH levels. Testing for soil pH and selecting a species adapted to the soil conditions prevents repeated and costly fertilization to keep trees healthy. Deciduous trees grow best in a pH range of six to seven, while conifers obtain optimum growth in a pH range of five to six.

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Learn How a Tree Ordinance Can Benefit Your Community

A tree ordinance benefits your community, whether large or small, rural or urban. A tree ordinance reflects the residents' and community's values placed on trees. It supports active tree maintenance and planting in the community.

As a management tool, tree ordinances direct and encourage proper tree maintenance and tree disease prevention for a healthy, vigorous community forest. Used to promote sound management through proper planning, correct planting specifications and effective maintenance, tree ordinances are important to community planning.

Preparing a Tree Ordinance

Before drafting your community's tree ordinance, ideas from many sources are important. Involve civic leaders, builders, contractors, residents, urban foresters and other interested parties in the early planning stages. Representing diverse community needs within an urban area is essential.

Decision makers must recognize that an urban forest is vital to community growth. A healthy forest creates local beauty, reduces energy costs, improves air cooling and reduces air pollution.

Social, economic and cultural values are factors that affect development of tree ordinances. Communication is necessary to gain community support for a tree ordinance. Productive communication enables diverse parties to work together, reaching and establishing a common tree ordinance.

Define Specific Community Forestry Management Goals

A community tree ordinance should include paragraphs about the following:

Benefits of Canopy Cover

The benefits of a well-maintained urban forest include:

Protection and enhancement of urban forests is each community's responsibility. A tree ordinance is an effective means to ensure a healthy and viable forest. Future community growth depends on it.

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Xeriscape Management in the Urban Environment

Arkansas is blessed with an abundant water supply. However, with an increase in industry relocation into the state, our growing population, droughts and lower water tables, it is prudent to look at xeriscape management as a toll in urban forest planning.

What is Xeriscape Management?

Xeriscape derives from the Greek word xeros, meaning dry. Xeriscape planting dramatically reduces the amount of water needed for beautiful and functional landscapes.

Planning To Conserve Water Resources

Begin by sketching your home or building on graph paper. Delineate property lines, utilities, water lines, existing trees, shrubs and flower gardens. Mark the north direction. Use this sketch to plan the location of your new trees.

Proper placement of trees as windbreaks will reduce the drying winds of summertime. Large deciduous trees, along with other ground cover, can reduce surface temperature up to 20 degrees. Making sure that your air-conditioning unit is well shaded will also cut down on energy costs.

Areas with a southern exposure should have drought tolerant vegetation. A rock garden using native stone, along with drought resistant wildflowers, adds an earthy touch to landscapes and conserves water resources. Naturally adapted Arkansas trees and other native plants require less watering and care. Native species have naturally adapted to the local climate.

Buffalo Grass is a suitable drought resistant grass for Arkansas. It requires less moisture than Bermuda or St. Augustine grass, conserving water resources while lowering monthly water bills. Some cities offer tax-breaks for homeowners using xeriscape management techniques.

Mulch in Urban Landscapes

Mulching is an excellent way to retain moisture near trees. Organic mulch, such as wood chips or pine needles, conserves moisture. Other benefits of using mulch include:

References Available Locally

Additional References

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This information was reprinted with permission from the Arkansas Forestry Commission, Urban and Community Forestry, Technical Bulletin #2

Last Updated 01 Aug 2008