When we were house shopping, I wanted a house with trees in the yard. As we looked at our options, narrowed down our choices, and eventually compromised our house wish list, I realized I would need to plant my own trees.
Last spring we added three new trees in our front yard. We wanted to improve the landscaping, add shade to the west side of the house, and reduce how much we have to water the lawn. Wasting water is a big pet peeve of mine, so I’m not a fan of a lot of grass watering. We try to make decisions that will result in a low-maintenance yard over the long term.
My favorite local landscaping book Easy Gardens for North Central Texas says the best time of year to plant a tree is the fall because that gives the roots plenty of time to get established before the hot summer, but most plant nurseries have better selection in the spring. As long as you keep the roots watered, you can plant trees in the spring too.
Tips to give your new trees their best chance at success:
1. Don’t plant the tree too deep. You want the top of the root ball to be slightly higher than the ground, not covered in soil. Dig a hole that is three times the width of the root ball, but only so deep that one inch of the root ball is still above ground.
2. Check the roots. If the tree is root bound in the container, meaning that the roots are growing in a circular shape around the root ball, loosen them up first.
3. Fill in and cover. As you fill the hole around the tree with dirt, add water so the soil settles and there won’t be any air bubbles. Cover the top of the root ball with mulch, but don’t let mulch or dirt pile up touching the tree trunk.
4. Fertilize in the spring. Use a slow-release fertilizer in spring, but don’t fertilize if it’s fall or winter. You won’t need to add any amendments to the soil (even clay soil) since most tree and shrub roots outgrow it quickly.
5. Water is very important. Keep your trees watered while they are getting established for the first few months. Slow watering, such as using a soaker hose, is best so the water goes deep for healthier roots.
We chose bald cypress which is a native tree that can survive on rain water (even in a Texas summer) and unimproved clay soil. The leaves are soft fronds, so we won’t have to rake them. I see them used frequently in street medians because they are low maintenance, and pretty too.
The trees were $50 each, the rental truck to drive them home was $20, and we bought some dirt, so our overall cost for three trees was less than $200.
Over time this might end up giving us the best return on investment for all of our house projects.
“The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago.
The second best time is now.”