PUBLISHED: 5:16 PM on Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Tree Tips
Plant the right tree in the right place

Why plant a tree?

Planting trees is one of the simplest ways to improve the appearance of your home and community. But trees have many other functions. They can improve air and water quality, reduce erosion, create attractive screening, provide wildlife habitat and even higher your property values, just to name a few. The key to these benefits, however, is to select the right tree and plant it in the right place.

Finding the right place

As you select a planting site, imagine what the tree will look like and the amount of space it will need in 5, 10, or 15 years. Stand in the spot where you want to plant your tree and look up, down, and all around. Will the crown and roots have room to grow? Most tree roots grow in the top 8 to 18 inches of soil and spread far beyond the drip line (width of the crown). Consider the shape of the crown in relation to the space available. For example, a tall column-shaped tree may take less space in a yard than a short tree with a round crown.

Avoid planting a tree where it will be in the way in a few years time. Before your neighbor knocks on your door with a chain saw in hand, ask yourself if low branches will interfere with your neighbor's (or your own!) fence or driveway, or with passing pedestrians or vehicles. Will the tree eventually interfere with overhead or underground utilities, or will it shade areas where you want sunlight or block desirable views. Leaves, cones, and fruits dropping in the fall can be messy so also think about how much time you want to spend doing maintenance.

Plant the right tree

Deciding why you want to plant a tree will help you choose the right tree and planting site. Do you want flowers, fruit, fall color, or winter interest? Is a windbreak or a visual barrier important to you? Or do you want to reduce erosion in your yard or create wildlife habitat? Also consider the micro-climate in your area. Are you in a warmer, wind protected part of town, or is your yard close to the glacier and much colder? Once you've answered these questions, learn about the various species. How hardy is it and how tall is it when mature? What form will it have and how fast will it grow? What are the soil and moisture requirements? Can it do well in partial shade or does it need full sun?

Choose a high quality tree with good form. The tree should be free of disease, insects and injuries and should have branches evenly distributed around the trunk, growing at between 45- and 90- degree angles. Avoid trees that have been topped or headed-back. Check to see that the tree has an adequate root mass for its size, and there are no roots encircling the root ball. Finally, check the trunk of the tree. Are there cuts or scrapes, and pruning cuts flush with the trunk? Best to avoid them and look for another tree.

Next month look for our Tree Tips with information on which kind of tree to select.

The Juneau Urban Forestry Partnership (JUFP) is a volunteer based nonprofit group formed to promote the selection, planting and care of trees within the Juneau community. The group is composed of community members ranging from master gardeners and foresters to landscape architects and members at large. JUFP is involved in numerous projects ranging from Arbor Day and other tree plantings to working with local schools and youth groups and providing tree and forestry related information to the community, just to name a few. If you have questions about trees or shrubs, would like to learn more about our organization, or be added to our email list and receive our newsletter, send an email to: