By Scott Prater
As it has in years past, Schriever will once again celebrate Arbor Day by planting a tree at the child development center May 4.
This year Andy Jensen, 50th Civil Engineer Squadron, environmental flight chief, will hand out more than 100 Colorado blue spruce seedlings to CDC children during the ceremony, but the star of the show will be a Patmore ash.
If all goes as planned, the Patmore ash will have a new home just to the right of the CDC entrance, then grow into a healthy deciduous tree that enhances the landscape around it for decades to come. Jensen chose it because an urban forestry survey showed that ash varieties grow well in Schriever’s climate.
Doug Chase, 50 CES environmental engineer, explained that proper selection is the first step in ensuring a healthy tree. As a former tree farmer and member of the Kansas Nut Growers Association, Chase managed the growth of more than 20 state champion trees and oversaw the management of the second largest red bud in America.
“The first thing to consider when you’re selecting a tree is the location it will be planted in,” he said. “If it is going to rest under power lines you’ll want a shorter tree and if it will be close to a structure you’ll want something with smaller branches like a pin oak. That way if a branch falls off it’s unlikely to damage the structure.”
Homeowners should also consider whether their new tree will serve as a shade or decorative plant. From there, people should consult a planting guide, such as a manual of woody landscape plants, available at most libraries, or one of many websites that contain a list of state champion trees.
When tree planters are ready to purchase, Chase recommends they visit a nursery that carries licensed-variety trees and never buy a tree larger than 1 inch in diameter. People will be able recognize a licensed-variety tree because they are named and annotated with a pair of apostrophes at the nursery.
“Licensed-variety trees exceed the standard for desired characteristics,” Chase said. “They exceed the standard for height, growth and the ability to flower, for instance. A good example of a small decorative tree would be a licensed-variety red bud called lavender twist. A good medium sized decorative tree would be something named Ali, a licensed-variety Chinese elm. This tree exfoliates its bark, is decorative year round and its seeds fall off during autumn and are not a problem in flower beds, so it’s a spectacular tree.”
For shade trees, Chase recommends planting a licensed variety swamp white oak or a sawtooth oak.
Nurseries can order varieties they don’t have in stock, so he urges people to never settle for something less.
After deciding a purpose, a location and selecting the variety of tree they desire, buyers or homeowners are ready to begin planting. Chase said tree planters should see 3 to 5 feet of growth in their tree every year if they can follow these simple tips.
• Dig the ground hole twice the width of the root ball.
• Plant the top of the root ball at least one inch above the existing grade.
• Practice proper staking. Use one stake at an angle one foot above the ground to hold the tree against the wind. This way, roots can attach to the ground. Many people use three different stakes near the top of a tree, but you don’t want that. Stake at the root ball to get the tree growing.
• Use electrical tape to attach the stake to the tree and use a figure-eight pattern while taping.
• Keep vegetation out 3 to 4 feet. Eighty percent of tree roots grow in the top 16 inches of soil. Keep grass competition away from trees, otherwise it takes nutrients from your tree.
• Fertilize properly. Only fertilize a tree that has been actively growing. Do not fertilize a tree that has just been planted. The best time to fertilize in Colorado is late March and early October.
• Prune properly. The best time to prune is right before full leaf break. Prune right at the end of the growth collar. Do not prune low limbs. Low limbs will increase growth rate and increase trunk taper.
• Use mulch. Mulches of wood chips, bark or other coarse organic materials will conserve moisture, prevent erosion and weed/grass growth and reduce soil temperature, resulting in improved growth and health.
• Irrigate. Plan to water your tree every seven to 10 days throughout the growing season when adequate rainfall does not occur. Irrigate slowly, allowing the water to soak the soil.
• Prevent line trimmer or mower injury. Young bark is easily bruised or killed resulting in stress and reduced tree growth, often followed by disease.