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Fall is the Perfect Time to Plant Trees

The Tree Board is reminding residents that fall, and particularly October, is the perfect time to plant trees in Norman. The International Society of Arboriculture has the following tips for caring for your newly-established tree:

Stake the tree, only if necessary. Studies have shown that trees establish more quickly and develop stronger trunkand root systems if they are not staked at the time of planting. However, staking may be required when planting bareroot stock or planting on windy sites. Stakes may also offer protection against lawn mower damage and vandalism.One or two stakes used in conjunction with a wide, flexible tie material on the lower half of the tree will hold thetree upright and minimize injury to the trunk, yet still allow movement. It is important to remember to removesupport staking and ties after the first year of growth.

Mulch the base of the tree. Mulches are available in many forms, and when spread around the base of a tree, itholds moisture, moderates soil temperature extremes, and reduces grass and weed competition. The two major typesof mulch are organic and inorganic. Inorganic mulches include various types of stone, lava rock, pulverized rubber,geotextile fabrics, and other materials. Inorganic mulches do not decompose and do not need to be replenishedoften. On the other hand, they do not improve soil structure, add organic materials, or provide nutrients. For thesereasons, most horticulturists and arborists prefer organic mulches. Common organic mulches include leaf litter, pinestraw, shredded bark, peat moss, or composted wood chips. A 2- to 4-inch (5- to 10-cm) layer is ideal. More than 4inches (10 cm) may cause a problem with oxygen and moisture levels. Piling mulch right up against the trunk of atree may cause decay of the living bark. A mulch-free area, 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) wide at the base of the tree,reduces moist bark conditions and prevents decay. Keep the soilmoist, but not waterlogged. Water trees at least once a week, barring rain, and more frequently during hot, windyweather. When the soil is dry below the surface of the mulch, it is time to water. Continue until mid-fall, taperingoff as lower temperatures require less-frequent watering.

Limit your pruning. At the time of planting, pruning should be limited to dead or broken branches. All otherpruning should be withheld until the second or third year, when a tree has recovered from the stress of transplanting.You should always have a distinct purpose in mind before making any pruning cut, because every cut has thepotential to change the growth of the tree. Pruning cut location is critical to a tree’s growth and wound closureresponse. Make pruning cuts just outside the branch collar to avoid damaging the trunk and compromising woundresponses.

Improper pruning cuts may lead to permanent internal decay. If a large branch must be shortened, prune it back to a secondary branch or a bud. Cuts made between buds or branches may lead to stem decay, sprout production, andmisdirected growth. When you are finished pruning, most experts recommend that wound dressing not be used.Despite any claims otherwise, research has shown that wood dressings do not reduce decay or speed wound closureand rarely prevent insect or disease infestations. The tree will compartmentalize the wound on its own over time.

Completing these basic steps will maximize the likelihood that your new tree will grow and thrive in its new home.When questions arise regarding your tree, be sure to consult your local ISA Certified Arborist or a tree care or garden center professional for assistance.

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Photo of Red Bud Trees