By The Old House Web


Newly planted ornamentals may be pruned or thinned out to reduce top weight and wind resistance. In general, removing 10 to 25 percent of the leaf-bearing wood lessens moisture stress of shoots while the root system gets re-established. Remove injured, weak, interfering and poorly located branches on trees and shrubs.

For trees, remove entire branches to leave a thinned out crown, one good leader and an adequate number of well spaced lateral branches with uncut tips. Do not remove small twigs along the leader, main branches or trunk. Leaving shoots along the trunk aids in preventing sunscald, winter injury of bark on smooth or thin barked trees, and promotes the development of good trunk taper for sturdy, upright growth.

After planting an ornamental, take several precautions to protect it against wind, insects, drought and other dangers. The following suggestions cover the most commonly required practices--bracing, wrapping and watering.

Staking And Bracing Trees

Most trees over 1 inch in trunk diameter must be braced with stakes during the first year after planting to hold them upright and prevent loosening of the soil around the base of the trunk, breaking roots and drying out of the surface roots. One or two stakes are adequate for bracing trees less than 2 inches in trunk diameter. The length of the tree stakes should be at least two thirds the height of the tree. Trees can be braced with 2- by 2- inch or similar wood stakes or light metal posts. Use either two stakes placed on opposite sides of a tree, or one stake or metal post placed on the side of the prevailing winds, 1 foot away from the tree and driven 2 feet into the ground. To avoid injuring the tree roots, set the stakes before covering the roots with soil.

To avoid injuring the trunk, attach the tree to a stake with a soft rope or wire run through a piece of garden hose or other suitable material. Wire encircling the trunk without such protection, will girdle the trunk and probably kill the tree. Cross or "figure-eight" the rope, or twist the wire between the stake and the tree, to prevent chafing of the bark.

Trees more than 3 inches in trunk diameter need three stakes for adequate bracing. Place the stakes at equal intervals around the tree and 18 inches from the trunk. Brace the stakes with cleats attached 4 to 6 inches below the tops of the stakes to form a triangular structure connecting the three stakes. Attach the tree to the stakes using soft rope or wire as described previously. Trees planted with large balls of soil may not need bracing.

Wrapping Tree Trunks

Wrap the trunks of newly planted trees that have smooth and thin bark with special tree-wrapping paper of at least 40-pound weight, burlap, plastic or other suitable material to protect them from sunscald and winter injury. Do not apply the wrapping material if the tree has sufficient small twigs to shade 50 percent of the trunk.

To wrap the trunk, start at the base of the branches and wrap spirally to the ground. Cover any bark exposed below the wrapping with soil. Secure the wrapping with stout twine but not wire that may girdle it. The twine may be tied around the base of the wrapping with a slip knot and then wrapped, using spaced loops, or it may be wrapped spirally around the trunk in the direction opposite the spiral of the wrapping paper. Tie the twine securely at the top of the wrapping. Examine the twine periodically and loosen it if necessary to avoid girdling the trunk.

It's generally recommended to keep the trees wrapped for two growing seasons, or until they are growing vigorously. Remove the wrappings each spring and fall to examine the bark for insect injury. If borers are present, ask for a treatment recommendation at the local garden center or the County Cooperative Extension Service office.

Watering Newly Planted Ornamentals

Newly planted ornamentals with limited root systems need an abundance of water during the growing season. Supply enough water to soak the soil around the roots at each watering, but do not water too often--allow the soil to dry sufficiently between waterings to provide adequate aeration for good root growth. A common practice is to soak the soil thoroughly every 7 to 10 days during prolonged dry periods in the growing season. Sandy soils require more water to maintain good plant growth than heavy loam or clay soils. You can get a rough idea of the amount of moisture present by squeezing a handful of the soil. Adequate moisture is available if the soil remains in a firm ball after you squeeze it and let go.

Water distribution will be more even throughout the root area if you use the extra topsoil to make a basin is made around the plant from beyond the edges of the original hole or beneath the tips of the branches. Irrigate newly planted ornamentals any time there is less than 1 inch of weekly rainfall and plants are actively growing. Apply water at the rate of 1 quart per square foot of planting area on poorly drained soils. On well drained soils, use a half- gallon of water per square foot. Newly planted ornamentals not yet actively growing can be injured by overwatering.

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