Tree Planting Breakthrough!

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Published on: Apr. 2, 2005

Last revision: Nov. 17, 2010

Tree fanciers all have one thing in common. We all plant trees incorrectly. More specifically, we all plant trees too deeply. Maybe 10 percent of the people reading that sentence are thinking, "Yes, most everybody else does plant trees too deep, but not me."

Well, I'm talking about you, too. Everyone plants trees too deeply. It seems to be ingrained in us.

Many of us have perspired over a newly planted tree envisioning someday, someone resting under its green shade, staring blissfully at a robin's nest in its branches, or watching a deer grazing on its acorns on a crisp fall afternoon. However, by planting trees too deep in the soil, we dramatically reduce the tree's capacity to ever reach its potential.

How is it that our tried-and-true tree planting methods are not so true? For starters, trees are planted too deeply at the tree nursery. Compounding the problem, modern tilling practices to control weeds at nurseries tend to throw dirt on top of tree roots, burying them even more. The trees we purchase these days come to us with up to 12 inches of extra dirt on top of their roots.

I think almost everyone assumes that the roots of the trees they have purchased are just under the soil line of the container or burlap. They're not. You might already have six or more inches of soil above the roots.

We compound the problem when we dig a little deeper hole for the soil ball to ensure the tree is anchored solidly and is well braced.

To top it off, we often encase the lower trunk in a big pile of mulch, entombing the roots more deeply.

Take a critical look at the trees in your yard or local park. Do the tree trunks flare out at the base, or do they tend to look more like telephone poles, going straight down into the ground with no root flare? The lack of flare is likely because the roots are buried too deeply. If, however, you look at trees that were not planted but grew naturally, notice how all of their trunks flare out at the ground (except pines).

Does it really matter if trees are planted too deeply? The answer, we are beginning to understand, is yes.

When tree roots are planted too far underground, secondary roots grow toward the surface to compensate. Rather than growing up and then out from the tree, some roots tend to grow

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