Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
March, 2001
Regional Report

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This exquisite oak tree is what convinced my dad to buy this property and build our home here.

Plant Trees

Arbor Day is this month, and that means it's time to plant trees. Trees are especially important as nature's air-filtering system. Each day, the average person uses 35 pounds of oxygen - all of it produced by plants and trees. Trees also help filter the air by collecting dust and pollutants before they reach our lungs. They make our life more peaceful by providing a sound barrier to filter out noise and a visual barrier to mask unattractive sights.

More Tree Advantages

Trees also cool homes in summer. One tree can have the same cooling effect as ten room-size air conditioners. Yet in winter, deciduous trees let the sun shine through bare branches to warm our homes. Trees provide wood to burn for heat, lumber to build houses, and paper for books and newspapers. Tree roots lessen water runoff, and branches slow down wind. Commercial fruit and nut trees provide 26 million tons of food each year. Do you need any more reasons to plant a tree?

Planting a Tree

Tree roots can extend almost four times the distance from the trunk to the drip line. The longest ones - the "feeder" roots - are near the soil surface, within 18 or so inches. When you plant a tree, dig the hole just as deep as the rootball, but loosen soil 1 foot deep for 3-4 feet out from the trunk. Incorporate up to 25% compost and other organic matter into the area around the hole to help keep soil uncompacted. New roots will be encouraged to grow beyond the planting hole and become established in the native soil. Walking paths, decks, and other heavy-traffic areas should be at least 5 feet away from the trunk. Pile a 2-4-inch-thick layer of mulch on top of the soil, keeping it a foot away from the trunk.

Supporting Your New Tree

Newly planted trees may need support for a year while they develop strong root systems and trunks. Remove the stake that came in the container from the nursery. Drive two sturdy 1-2-inch-wide stakes about 16 inches deep into the ground 1 foot out and on either side of the trunk. About two-thirds of the way up the trunk, tie loops from each stake around the trunk. Use soft material like stockings or rags or old garden hose pieces to form the loops. Tie the loops loosely so the trunk can sway gently in the wind. This strengthens the trunk and stimulates strong root growth. Remove the stakes after a year. If the tree flops over, reset them at a much lower point and tie the tree even more loosely - only enough to keep the top from flopping.

Best Spring-Planted Trees

Trees that will do best when transplanted in the spring, when warm soil and air speed healthy root growth, include Nootka cypress, golden-rain tree, hornbeam, magnolia, English and red and white oaks, poplar, tulip tree, tupelo, and zelkova.

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