Jay Maier of Sargent’s Gardens answers common questions about trees.

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Q: Can you recommend trees for planting this year?

A: The tree you plant should match the site you have, whether you have a lot of shade or sun, dry or wet soils or a little or a lot of space. The tree should also match what you are trying to accomplish. Hackberry is a great native tree. Ohio buckeye is an understory tree that can grow in the shade of other trees. Norway spruce is an evergreen that has beautiful, drooping branches as it matures. Japanese tree lilac is a hardy, full-sun tree that has beautiful white flowers in the spring.

Q: What is the best way to care for the trees?

A: Good soil health and nutrition, proper pruning and preventing root and stem injuries are the best ways to keep your trees healthy. An annual spring or fall checkup by an ISA Certified Arborist or Board-Certified Master Arborist is a great first step. For young trees growing in your yard, proper watering and fertilization on an annual basis can be very helpful.

Established trees are pretty selfsufficient as it relates to water. Many times, doing too much hurts them. For example, incorrect pruning causes decay. Digging around their roots during construction projects or expanding turf actually disturbs established trees.

Q: How should you care for newly planted trees in their first few years?

A: Proper watering is the best thing to do. A wide mulch ring around the tree helps preserve water in the soil. Also, protect the trunk from deer. Trees should be pruned when they are young, as well, in spring or fall.

Q: Should you remove buckthorn in your forest?

A: I would only recommend removal of buckthorn if you can keep up with the maintenance of the area. Once buckthorn is removed, the seeds that lay dormant in the soil will begin to sprout over a number of years. Each year, you will need to either pull or spray the new growth. Certain grasses (such as fescue) can help suppress buckthorn in the short term.

Q: How do you know you are planting the trees in the right place in your forest or landscape?

A: Know the dimensions of your site and the amount of sun it gets before going to the garden center to select a tree. Read the tags on the trees and ask one of the experts at the garden center to help you. Planting a tree that grows tall requires canopy space. If you look up and only see trees already (or overhead power lines), plant a tree that doesn’t get too tall.

Q: What is the most common error people make when planting new trees?

A: Planting too deep. A tree must be planted with its first main root(s) at or above the soil line. This often takes removal of soil from a tree you purchase.

Q: Which trees are best to help with climate change?

A: Bigger and more leaves sequester the most carbon. Prairies sequester a lot of carbon. If you switch turf areas to tallgrass prairies, you will help the cause.

Q: What pests or diseases are common in our area, and how should they be handled?

A: Examples are emerald ash borer, Dutch elm disease and oak wilt. These require fungicides or insecticides which are not optimal but are worth it to preserve large trees. Many fungi and insects are cosmetic and part of the landscape. Having some tolerance for those is good to prevent more pesticide use.

Q: How can we best care for trees in our city and region?

A: Trees are good. That’s a fact and a website (treesaregood.org). RNeighborWoods, a Rochester program, plants trees each spring and fall with volunteers and with donated money.


About Author

In her 15 years of living in southeast Minnesota, Rochester Women Magazine has been Anastasia’s touchstone for the many communities of women in our city and region. She is so grateful to contribute to this amazing resource. As a nonprofit and education volunteer and staffer, mom, and gardener, all of her passions can be found on these pages, and she looks forward to helping develop more content. When not writing articles, she can be found reading, running, gardening and enjoying time with family and friends.

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