It isn’t easy growing trees and shrubs in Wyoming—one look at our prairies would suggest that trees and shrubs aren’t in the cards! But we CAN grow trees, and to make the effort worthwhile we’ve developed an action plan consisting of six planting strategies, and the fact of the matter is they are easy to do!
- Location, Location, Location!
This real estate term says it all when determining where to plant a tree. Never plant a tree/shrub next to your home or outbuildings. No matter how small and cuddly they are when small, trees grow up! Besides interfering with the foundation of your home, you will compromise the long-term health of the tree. Our recommendation for shrubs is a minimum of 5 ft away from the building’s foundation, and for trees at least 20 ft away.
As corny as this sounds, look up before planting! If you see utility lines above you, move the planting site away from the power lines—in 10 years you’ll be glad you did. One last thing about location, wind is a serious problem for most of Wyoming, so be careful that you don’t plant where snow drifting will become an issue.
- Site Preparation
Before you start be sure to give a call to One Call of Wyoming (811) a few days before you start to plant. This is a free service that lets you know of any underground utilities in the area; besides, it’s the law. Prepare the planting site by spading or roto-tilling an area at least two times the diameter of the rootball (example if the rootball is 2 ft across then the area to be tilled will be 4 ft). Dig the hole only as deep as the top of the root crown—the area on the tree where the roots start to grow; planting deeper may result in death. It is much better for the tree to err on planting too shallow than too deep!
- Amend the soil
The research is fairly clear—adding soil inoculants like mycorrhizae, a symbiotic fungus, improves the performance of trees. Mixing potting soil, peat moss or very aged manures into the planting hole helps to open up clay soils, allowing for better drainage, and in sandy soils helps to retain moisture. Add 2-3 inches of wood mulch to the surface of the soil after planting. This will help to keep the soils from drying out and will help with weed control.
- Remove all man-made items from the root ball
Things like wire, burlap, and string need to be removed once the tree is in place. These materials left in place can cause severe root girdling.
Think in thirds! After the tree is planted and you begin backfilling the planting hole, add water when the soil is about 1/3 deep. Make sure all the air pockets are filled in with the water. Continue this process until the hole is filled in. Tip: Don’t tamp the soil as if you were placing a fence post—we don’t want compaction, just the elimination of air pockets.
Unless you have very rich soil to begin with, fertilize. For most of us our soils are lacking in the most basic of nutrients like nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. Adding a good tree fertilizer at time of planting ensures these nutrients are available to the tree’s roots as they begin to grow.
This article appeared in the March 10th, 2017 edition of the Wyoming Plant Company News sent to subscribers. You can subscribe to the newsletter to get these articles in your inbox by using the form on the sidebar.