Give your Trees the Best Start!

As I looked out at my yard this past week and saw the grass grow at lightning speeds, I decided that I need a few more trees in the space. With Earth Day and Arbor Day just past, I doubt I’m the only one thinking about planting a few more of those beautiful wood sculptures in my yard. While we are looking for the just the right tree, we should be thinking down the road a bit and consider if the tree is going to fit the space.

powerline problem adam leonberger

Power line vs. Tree, Adam Leonberger

The first thing to consider is the tree’s hardiness. Some trees are adapted to survive the cold winters of northern Canada, but whither under our summer heat, while others give up at the first mention of freezing temps. In Kentucky, we range in USDA cold hardiness zones 6a to 7a. So, look for trees and shrubs that are hardy to at least those zones.

We’ve all seen, and complained about, those “Pac-Man” trees that the utility companies have trimmed to maintain the right away. We need to think about where they will be planted. The first thing is to make sure there is enough space for the mature tree. To keep them looking beautiful for years, only plant small trees and shrubs (less than 25 ft. max height) within 15 ft. of overhead lines. I suggest medium trees (26 – 50 ft.) be planted near to homes to help shade the house during the summer, but be sure to plant them at least 15 ft. from the foundation. Larger trees are better planted farther from the house, since they have wider branch and root spread.

powerline workers adam leonberger

Tree trimming, Adam Leonberger

You’ll want to look at the space in the ground, too. Trees need at least as much root space as their canopy to thrive. Avoid planting trees right next to roads and sidewalks. As the tree grows, the roots will make the pavement uneven and dangerous. You’ll also want to be careful planting over any septic fields, as the roots can clog the system. After you’ve chosen the tree and the space, be sure to plant the tree correctly!

Submitted by Adam Leonberger, Agent for Horticulture, Franklin Co. Cooperative Extension Service