In General

When your toothpaste runs out, do you have a full tube waiting in your secret stash? Or do you write “toothpaste” high on your list of “to do” items for the day? I like to plan. Perhaps to the extreme in some cases. One of my biggest fears is being unprepared. You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this and maybe it’s a stretch for a blog topic but during this lull in active gardening, I’d like you to give some thought to planning.

If you plant a good tree or a legacy tree, as I like to call them (trees that will outlast your great grandchildren), this article may not appeal too much. But for many of us we may have a tree or two that have past their prime and are on the decline. The main point of my rambling this month is to get you to consider planting replacement trees……BEFORE that which is being replaced goes to tree heaven.

In far too many gardens I see trees which are planted too far apart. Yes, I know this is a matter of opinion but I’d rather see the potential for a mini forest than a garden that seems too “safe”.

I know it’s a matter of opinion, but this may be playing it a bit too safe.

Whenever the decision is made to remove a tree, be this from decline or other reasons, it is always a shock to see how much the new void has changed the garden’s appearance. You may want to consider getting a head start on filling that void by planting a small tree nearby. If it’s a few years before the saw finds the tree to be removed, you’ll have those years to let the new guy settle in and get adjusted to the soil conditions, exposure, etc.

A white dogwood waiting for his (or her) chance to shine when the one to the left bites the dust.

I’m also a fan of planting smaller rather than larger trees as they are much easier to handle and smaller trees adjust to a new site much more quickly than 2” or 3” caliper (diameter of trunk at 4’ from root ball) plants. I’ve also heard it said that it takes one year for every inch caliper for a tree to adjust to its new site. This means if you plant a 4” caliper tree, you better make sure you keep a close eye on it for 4 years.

My birch tree has seen some canopy die-back and has been in decline for a while. Rather than wait, I planted a dawn redwood to its east and a wildfire black gum immediately to its west. We’ll see who wins.

As always, there are likely those who would argue that I’m full of $#@&! and they may be correct by bringing up such things as root competition between the old and new plant and other physiological factors. I will also be the first to admit that what I’m writing doesn’t apply to all situations. But life is too short not to take some chances so I say if you have a tree, you know isn’t long for this world, consider what I’m saying and keep your eyes open next time you visit the garden center. Put a small tree in the on-deck circle (baseball season is not that far away!)

Happy Planning!

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