Planting a tree

Angie's List offers steps to take before you buy anything

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Well-cared-for trees can add value to your property.

"Trees are a great asset," said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List. "They can add up to 15 percent to the value of your home if they are well-maintained. But when planning and planting, you need to be sure you're accounting for what they will be like when they are full grown."

Hicks goes on to say that sometimes, people make the mistake of planting them too close to their driveway or to their home, which could cause their driveway to buckle or their foundation to crack.

Trees grow slowly so you can't afford to make a mistake by planting them in the wrong location or overlooking something that puts the tree at risk. Trees will thrive as long as they are planted in the right location.  Once you have found the ideal location, it's time to select a healthy tree.

"The most important thing really is the framework of the tree, the wood part," explained Jeff Gatewood, who owns a nursery.  "A good, clean, straight trunk and a good even branching habit. More important than anything else is the framework because it's going to be there year after year."

Angie's List asked highly rated tree service companies for some tree planting tips:

  • When to plant a tree: Experts says the ideal time to plant a tree is in the dormant season – in the fall after leaf drop or in the early spring. The cooler temperatures reduce stress on the tree because roots establish before spring rains and high temperatures spur new growth.
  • How to select a tree: To avoid problems down the road, purchase a healthy tree. A high-quality tree should establish more quickly after transplanting, and will be more likely to fight off disease and survive heavy storms. Avoid trees with crushed or circling roots or obvious wounds on the trunk. Look for a tree with one, dominant truck and a uniform canopy. If the tree is staked in the nursery, remove the stake to ensure the tree can stand on its own. Trees are usually sold as bare root or in a root ball or container. Bare-root trees should have visible, fibrous root system that is moist and not dried out. When purchasing a tree in a container, watch out for roots that have grown into the container.
  • Where to plant a tree: Avoid planting trees that will grow large under power lines or other trees. Trees planted too close to foundation, driveways, or sidewalks can cause concrete to crack and buckle. Fruit-bearing trees should be kept away from driveways, patios and sidewalks because the fruit will be a nuisance and stain the pavement.
  • Call before you dig: Once you've scouted a location, call 811 to schedule an underground utility inspection. The service is available nationwide at no cost to the homeowner. Otherwise, you risk digging through a utility line, potentially knocking out power to your neighborhood.
  • What could go wrong? When planting a tree you risk transplant shock. Symptoms of transplant shock include wilted leaves and slow growth. Consult with an expert about maintenance and how to keep your tree healthy and thriving.

"You never want the grass to grow around the trunk of the tree," warned Gatewood. "Always take out a big circle of sod, four to six feet in diameter, plant the tree in the middle, mulch it."

When it comes to mulch, do not pile it up along the trunk because the mulch stays moist and that attracts insects and causes rot.  Gatewood says newly planted trees should get an inch of water a week.

Angie's List Tip:

  • Before you plant a tree, seek the consultation of an expert: A certified arborist can help determine what trees will work best in your yard -- and your geographic region -- and can help come up with a variety of trees to beautify your landscape. Some states require an arborist to be licensed so check with your state's licensing department before hiring. Also check for membership in professional organizations, such as the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA).

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