Proper techniques protect your investment

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— Trees and shrubs can improve a home's appearance, increase its value, and provide shade and privacy. Proper plant selection, soil preparation, and planting technique will protect these important investments.

The best time to plant is early spring, as soon as the ground may be worked. Plant balled-and-burlapped stock before bud break or after growth has hardened. Most container stock can be planted all season.

Fall planting has a higher risk, especially for evergreens, but should be done before October.

Sue Bockelman, horticultural specialist at Windemere Landscape and Gardens said, "dig a $50 hole for a $5 tree, which in Steamboat Springs means add lots of organic matter." She suggests filling the hole with organic matter and soil from digging the hole.

Do not tamp the backfill because this compacts the soil too much.

For bare-root plants the hole should be large enough to allow the roots to spread without crowding.

The crown (where the roots and top meet) should be at least 2 inches above the soil level. For balled-and-burlapped and container-grown stock dig a dish-shaped hole 3 to 5 times wider than the root ball. Be sure to remove all container materials, netting, burlap, wires, ties on the top and sides of the plant.

With extra soil, form a small, temporary dam just beyond the rim of the hole. Watering regularly the first season is of prime importance.

Reapply water only when the soil begins to feel dry at a depth of 4 to 6 inches.

Do apply a loose mulch, such as wood chips over the planted area at 3-4 inches deep. Mulch will prevent weed growth and damage to trees from lawn mowers.

Don't fertilize the newly planted trees or shrubs until the second growing season.

Protect thin-barked trees such as crabapples from sunscald in the winter during the first year or two after planting. Apply a tree wrap to the trunk and large branches prior to winter and remove it in the spring.

Winter browning of evergreens is caused by wind and sun. The evergreen loses moisture from its needles and the roots are in frozen soil. Water the evergreen until the soil freezes and apply burlap screen to the South and windward side to protect it from strong winds.

Proper planting techniques are easy to follow and if practiced will result in good root development for your plants, which then will encourage healthy growth of your trees or shrubs.

Camille C. Fisher is a Routt County resident and a Master Gardener through the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension office in Routt County. Questions may be submitted directly to Master Gardeners at 879-0825 or emailed to: gardeners@co.routt.co.us

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