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best way to plant 30-35 trees easily

17 years ago


I have a new home on a 3/4 acre lot in Colorado and its completely devoid of any trees. I am seriously thinking about participating in a bulk tree buy put on by the colorado tree coalition. I live at 6500' and my weather is a good 8 degrees colder than denver most of the time amd 1000' higher.

I would be ordering 28 trees, of which 15 would be 1.23" caliper bare root and the remaining 13 would be balled and burlapped 6-8' trees weighing between 50 and 100lbs each.

This would occur next April. I would imagine I'll need at least one other guy to help me do the planting, but I'm hoping to do all the holes in advance and also have the soil amendments ready as well, and possibly a tiller. I could possibly till the soil in a newly formed garden area, then dump it into each hole as I plant them.

I have been taking into consideration the needs of each tree and the eventual width of them to make sure I don't overplant my lot. I have come up with an initial planting plan but wonder if I can pull it off and how to prepare the 28 holes needed without killing myself in the process.

For those of you who are not familier with Colorado soils, its either clay or sand ... and I'm mostly clay ... so digging can be a chore. The builder did add a lot of backfill in most areas, so the top 6-12" is looser soil with more sand in it, while its harder clay down deep ... intermixed with some fertile layers here and there, as my lot was kind of drainge valley originally and didn't get terraced much, just backfilled.

I'm looking for advice on whats the best way to plant these 28 trees, and more specifically, how to dig the holes.

My leading thought is to rent a toro dingo with 30" auger and dig the holes using it. The reason I'm leaning torwards this machine is that its little enough to get into all places in my yard, would be less damaging than a skid steer and I've seen the builder diggin post holes with one of these ... and it worked amazing good and quickly. I've seen guys out busting their humps with two man augers, but I also saw a guy with a dingo go do a block full of post holes in under 30 minutes.

So my thought it get the dingo with 30" auger and do it that way.

I could get a skid steer in, if absolutely needed, but I'm worried I might tear up my yard in the process. My back yard consists of wood mulched areas (flat), local rock around the house and a large ky bluegrass lawn of about 7000 sq ft.

I'll try uploading my planting diagram for all to critique as well. THanks, Scott

Comments (31)

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Gosh, I wish I had some good recommendations on this, but all I can do is offer up some general advice regarding tree planting:

    - Don't plant the trees too deeply. The root flare (the wider part at the bottom of the tree from which the roots emerge) should be visible above the soil line. If the tree looks like a telephone pole stuck in the ground without a root flare showing, it is planted too deeply, and this can kill the tree.

    - Make sure all packaging material is removed from the roots. Don't let anyone convince you that it is okay to leave the burlap, wire cage, etc. on the tree's roots. Get all that stuff off since it can and will get in the way of proper root development, and can thus kill the tree. Note that some folks will say that biodegradable material can be left, but even that is not the case since by the time it degrades it will already have done damage.

    - When staking trees, make sure you don't leave the wire or other ties on the trunk too long since you don't want them to dig into the bark.

    Good luck!

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  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    We have to use an auger for our hard red clay soils, too. It's hand held, but large enough to do the job. Post hole digger? Hah!!!!! No way. It would be like digging holes in concrete.

    It's important that you use it properly, though. Even with an auger, you need to make a hole that is wide, shallow and basin-shaped. No soil amendments, even in clay soil....unless you are going to till up an entire planting bed. Hole by amendments. And no fertilizers. (Just repeating Ken's comments....they are important.)

    I disagree with the previous poster about removing all of the B&B material. DO remove ropes and straps! And if the burlap is synthetic, that should be removed, too. Other than that, the root ball can be damaged if you try to remove the wrappings and basket from a large tree. Probably less important if the trees are manageable.

    After the tree has been placed into the hole, I would cut away the excess burlap from the top third or so, and you could cut that much of the basket away, too. The important roots will emerge from the top portion of that root ball, not from the bottom.

    I've come to really like growing in heavy clay soil, though it is sure different from the sandy soils I've worked with in the recent past. As long as your site drains properly, you should find the grow-in process relatively care free.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Here's a great informational site!

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Thanks for the great replies. I've heard both amend and "dont' amend" here in Colorado. The problem is that the soil is absolute crap and on the alkaline side (PH ~7). I think arborists say to not amend, but landscapers tend to about 50% of the time. Its just hard to imagine a plant living in this Colorado soil, its so bad.

    So if I do not amend, how deep and wide should the hole be?
    I'm not sure I know what the root flare is. Does anyone have a picture of this?

    My local extension said I could do a soil test, but that he has seen virtually no difference between more homeowners doing these tests. If I did a test, would if be important to test several areas, or just one? Somehow, it feels so in-precise to sample only one spot and depth.

    I have thought the maybe I just go out and dig some holes by hand each weekend ... then by the time April rolls around, I'd be done. If I don't amend the soil, then this process just becomes that much easier, right?

    I'm obviously on the inexperienced side, but economics dictate that I pay as little as possible for my trees, so this program allows me to spend less. I know that I could plant transplants/seedling for even less ... but the WAF (wife approval factor) is very low. Its bad enough that a tree takes 10 years in Colorado to become of any size, but extending that to 15 years takes patience she doesn't have.

    I have told her I would be doing some smaller transplants in the future (in addition to these 28 trees) ... but that they would be small and take longer to get big. I also know that in many cases, these small trees can outpace/outgrow the bigger ones .... but again, I'm doing a little of both to get the WAF.

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I'll attach the Gilman link again for you. Use the click-able indexes on the left to find some answers to your questions about trunk flare, size of the planting hole, etc. It is a VERY good site, with a great deal of excellent information. Take advantage of those many chapters.

    As to the advantages of planting smaller trees, click on the section regarding ESTABLISHMENT. The larger the tree, the longer it sits in the ground trying to develop a root system to simply support the tree body. Forget about growing! In your climate, it can take as much as one year PER CALIPER INCH to establish. During this stressful time, the tree finds it difficult to fend off insect and disease problems, deal with heat, drought, freezes, etc. Bigger is not better!

    Here's part of the deal with soil amending. If you create a basin of highly improved soil, the tree roots aren't going to want to leave it. They will find it much more agreeable to wind around and around in that hole, never venturing out into the real world. I've gone into plantings that were 5 years old and lifted trees and shrubs out of the ground with no effort.

    Too, moisture may wick to or from your amended soil, creating a problem for the plant. It is so much better for your trees, in the short run AND long run, if you do not amend the planting hole. Rather, spend that money on a good supply of organic mulch and spread it in a generous area over the (future) root zone. There is little that is more beneficial than 2 to 4 inches of mulch.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Click here

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    regarding your first paragraph in your last post ... arborists don't sell amendments.. so they don't feel they are necessary ... landscapers are more than willing to sell you amendments for the profit involved .. follow the money .... IT IS NOT NECESSARY ....

    soil tests include instructions of how to do it.. basically you take a bucket.. and dig a bunch of holes... and mix it all together .. etc .... giving you a general idea of you land ...

    call the extension back .. and discuss the actual trees you plan on planting... and PLANT TREES THAT WORK IN YOUR SOIL... which i think you implied he feels is consistent across CO .... if you plant trees that work in that soil ... then there is absolutely no need to amend ....

    and you failed to note.. or i failed to read.. exactly what you are planting .... e.g. .... 35 oaks on 3/4 of an acre is perhaps overkill .... are you really thinking this through .... or are you referring to conifers and shrubs as trees ....

    if you would ... [and i suppose .. could convince wifey... lol] that this should be a 5 year plan .... you MIGHT be better off ....

    back to the oaks ..... if you plant 35 exact duplicates in one year.. they are always going to be the same ... by staggering ... you can add a vertical dimension to your landscape ....

    ignore today's fixation on oaks.. if they are not appropriate to you ... they are just an example ...

    and i hope you are planning a diverse culture in your yard.. to offset any sudden plagues that might blow through CO .... you have a mixture of trees??? .. back to oaks.. lol .. if you plant 35 of them .. and the ninth plaugue of oakdom passes by .. you lose them all ... out here... the best example would be ash and the dredded ash borer ... skip those IMHO ....


  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Thanks again -- yes, I am beginning to see the light regarding soil amending ... and how I would be better off doing nothing at all.

    Does it still help to dig a much larger (width) area around where the tree is to go, to loosen it up, or only dig up a width which is necessary to plant the tree roots (for bareroot) or tree ball (for b&b).

    I am not planning on 35 oaks, thats for sure. In fact, my local CSU extension said that most of the oaks didn't do well in my area, due to soil PH being too high.

    I am getting 10 crabapples (5 spring snow, 5 pink spires), 5 japanese lilac trees ... all bareroot (BR).

    I am also getting 3 goldenrain trees, 3 cleveland pear select [ I know its controversial, but I'm doing it anyways ] and then 1 each of the following: Ruby Red Horsechestnut, Serviceberry Robin Hill, Western Catalpa, Red Bud [ risky, I know, but I have shelter & shade for it ], (Thornless) Cockspur Hawthorn, Kentucky Coffeetree and English Oak ... all B&B 1.25" caliper or 6-8' ( a mix ).

    The only trees which already exist on my lot are in the front yard and thats a (1) Marshell's Seedless Ash [ deformed, all branches on one side died this first year ] and (2) An austrian pine (doing pretty well). Unfortunatly, both trees will be moved again, since I have a major $200,000 drainage project through my property -- which require them to be relocated.

    I'll try to post a picture this evening of my initial planting plan -- and I'd appreciate comments on it. I'm sizing things out to their mature widths on the plan, so that I can avoid trees hitting the house or each other as they mature. Perhaps this isn't the right way to plan.

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I also plan on having many more pine trees eventually.

    I'll probably buy a couple big ones for immediate privacy needs, but then plant the others as 4 year transplants in all other locations. Might pick up a $46 blue spruce from home depot if they look heathly.

    Thats my current plan for a big yard, with trees, on a budget.

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Great thread. As far as the WAF goes, I've found that stepping into the yard for a few evenings and tucking some inexpensive bare root trees in the ground is far better than spending a few hundred bucks and two or three weekends tracking mud into the house. Our conservation district sells 10 bare roots for $10, mixed oaks, spruces, and such. Of course with a bare lot you also want something to look at now.

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    When your bare-root trees arrive make sure you have enough soil or sand handy to lay the trees on their sides and cover the bare roots. Keep that pile of sand covering those roots moist. Then you can take time for rest breaks and not overwork yourself due to fear of loosing your trees from them their roots being exposed too long. Also keep the ball and burlap trees' root balls moist.

    Prior to the trees' arrival, it will be very helpful to already have the grass and weeds removed from the areas of your planting holes.

    Clay soil, when dry, is so hard that one would need a jackhammer to easily break it up. A better way to dig your holes would be slow soak the planting area for several hours or long enough to just moisten but not waterlog the clay. Once you start to dig, the moistened soil should be easy to dig. If you reach dry clay again before reaching the depth needed, simply stop digging, fill the hole with water, and wait until the water drains before finishing digging the hole.

    Make sure that you have not created smooth sided holes. Rather, make sure the sides are jagged all the way up and down the hole.

    For poorly draining clay soils the depth of the hole should be the depth of your trees roots minus 2 inches plus 10 inches, but when using that depth make certain to dig the shape of hole as described below.

    For the shape of the planting hole, in poorly draining clay soil make certain to dig an upside down pyramid shape hole with Jagged or stepped walls. At the very bottom levels where the walls get too narrow for using a regular shovel, a post hole digger is useful. A shorter handle, long and narrow bladed shovel is also very helpful.

    The bottom pointed shaped area of the inverted pyramid shape which is still too narrow for the bareroots to fit should be about 10 inches deep. fill that area with a 2 to 1 ratio of sand and pea size gravel mixture. The depth of the hole above that sand level should be 2 inches less than the length of your tree's bareroots.

    At the top of the above described sand level the hole should be just wide enough to accomodate the bottom of the tree's bare roots. the hole should continue upward until the natural virgin soil level is about 2 inches lower than the top of tree's root-flare.

    The slanting jagged or stepped walls of the the planting hole should be dug ever wider until by the time you are at the virgin soil level the planting hole which you have dug is 4 times wider than the width of the tree's bare roots.

    Again, in poorly draining clay soils, trees should be planted so that the top of the root-flare is at least 2 inches above ground level. Backfill the planting hole to the virgin soil level then fill and mound virgin soil up around the exposed roots high enough for only the top of the tree's root-flare to be visible. After that apply 4 to 6 inches of mulch over the planting hole, but keep that mulch at least 4 inches away from the tree's trunk at the top of the root-flare level.

    On your trees which are already ball and burlaped, dig the same kind of hole, only make certain that the soil in the rootball is very close to the same as your virgin soil. Also before determining how deep to dig the hole you must untie the twine and loosen the burlap just enough to notice if you can see the tree's root-flare. If not, you will need to remove the top soil in that root ball until you can see the top of the root-flare. After that retie the burlap so it will not slip off and disrupt the root ball when trying to get the heavy tree into the planting hole.

    If you think the tree will be too heavy to remove the burlap once you get the tree in the planting hole, make sure, before sliding the tree into the planting hole, you first have cut slits in the bottom and on the sides of that burlap so that the tree's roots will have less trouble growing out of that burlap. Also once the tree is postioned and after the planting hole is back-filled with virgin soil to about half way up the rootball, untie and cut away all twine and visible burlap. Then continue using virgin soil to back-fill the rest of the hole up to your normal ground level. Cover the root ball that remains sticking up above ground level and the rest of the width of your planting hole with at least 4 to 6 inches depth of mulch, while leaving at least 4 inches around the trunk of the tree mulch free.

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Last week, while at the doctor, I had a legal question. He sent me to a lawyer.

    While at the lawyer, I had a medical question. He sent me back to the doctor.

    While at the doctor, I had car problems. He sent me to a mechanic.

    While at the mechanic, I had a question about a pet. Sent to a vet.

    While at the vet, I had questions about a tree. He told me under no circumstances was I to trust anyone who actually works with plants for a living, as they all have agendas, quotas, are generally unqualified for what they do (he forgot to mention the underpaid part and questionability of green card status, but that's something else and those two may actually be closely related), but that he knew what to do, and if not, his wife, who was a teacher, would be able to help.

    Why is it that in the discussion of how to plant a tree, the only people who are disqualified from consideration of being knowledgable are those very people who get paid to do it?

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Truthfully, it is because a lot of the people are paid to just stick the tree in the ground, collect their fee, and walk away. After years of watching trees be planted too deeply in the wrong places, with their roots trapped in wire cages, ties for staking digging into their bark, and mulch volcanoes piled high around the tree to suffocate them, I have very little faith in the basic landscaping people who plant trees.

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    here is a trick .... your choice as to which ....

    if you have a veggie garden .... use it to 'heal in' you bare roots ... during the period of planting .... ma earth is much better than anything you can dream up for keeping them cool and damp ... this is what katrina was discussing .... or .......

    a week in advance of delivery .... if you can find a source .... get a couple yards of mulch delivered ... you will need it after planting anyway .... and then you can use it to heal in both bare root and BB while planting .... the only problem is finding mulch in april ... if serious about it .... call around.. and see if available at that time of year ... or maybe have it delivered now ...

    you have a great amount of help here .... plan it all out ... and good luck..


  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Just like there are qualified nursery and landscape workers; there are, also, many unqualified or unethical ones.

    A professional landscaper planted two 12 feet tall, red maple trees in my friend's front yard without even letting her know that the leaves, which fall from those trees and if eaten by her neighbor's horses, will likely cause the horse severe illness and even could lead to the its death.

    That same landscaper also planted one of those red maples only 3 feet away from her concrete driveway; without ever mentioning to her that maple tree's roots were reasonably expected to, one day in the not to far future, raise or crack or otherwise damage her driveway.

    This summer, a professional Lawn service guy "got happy" with his weed trimmer and cut the bark all the way around 7 of her young 8 feet tall Loblolly trees, three of her 4 feet tall Thuja 'Green Giants,' and one of the red maples mentioned above. So far, the damage caused her to have to replace all but the red maple out of those tree.

    My favorite local nursery hired a horticulture degree trained garden assistant, who never made it through her 6 week trial period. That assistant was heard talking so far above the average customer's head that she might as well have been speaking a different language. She was seen to be pruning the nursery stock no better than an untrained or unexperienced person could be expected to clip back a holly hedge. She also was seen ignoring trash stock which needed to be thrown out, but handling, as trash, some quality stock, which only needed a little pampering.

    At a garden show, a professional landscaper, featured at that show, and who was very well paid for his landscape designs told me that the two Leyland C. trees he had incorporated into one of his designs would never get more than 10 feet wide and 30 feet tall. I do not know what world he was living in, but around here LCs that have been planted in the kind of arrangement his design showed grow larger than that in less than 10 years.

    The poor service described above happened in only the last two years.

    Such commonly practiced character flaws, seen in those who should know better, only serve to teach me how important it is to do my own research. I try to find common threads in others advice; all along considering such advice as only a suggestion untill I have had the chance to prove to my satisfaction, whether or not the advice for a situation can, by first testing or mainly trying the more reasonable and commonly agreed upon, successfully be applied in my local area.

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Wow, the great information just keeps pouring in. Thats so much.

    Katrina, your descriptions are excellent and very helpful to this newbie. Thanks to everyone.

    I have over 100 yards of mulch in the yard already. Its been there for about 14 months now. Probably 70% of it is directly interfacing with the soil (no fabric). I was amazing that this area did as good at the fabric area when it came to weeds. I do use pre-emergents to reduce the weeds, then spray them thereafter.

    I am attaching a link to my planting diagram, and I attempted to show the mature canopy sizes in the diagram based on the information I had available on these trees. It looks crowded, but trust me, my yard has nothing (nada) in it right now ... so there is a lot of room. The back yard is 280' across, to give you some idea of scale. Feel free to critque this diagram, because I could use the feedback and the plan is easy to change at this point. Thx, Scott

    Here is a link that might be useful: tree planting diagram

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Wow, your certainly have done a lot of work designing the basic bones of your landscape. It is easy to see you put your evergreen Blue Spruce in good locations to try to block some of the cold north winds. Even though you did not have enough room to plant a staggered and tiered three row arrangement, which would have been most affective, in those areas you still did good situating your C. Blue Spruce at those locations.

    The springtime should be inspiring with all those flowering trees. The fall leaf change colors should also be very pleasing. As the years progress while you live there other ideas will consistantly be revealed to you for how to bring in more summer or winter color contrast and interests.

    One very important thing you might want to invest in is a good watering system for at least the first 2 to three years that the trees take to get well established. By a good system, I mean one with zones which can prevent over and under watering of different items. During the establishment years disregard the information which specifies any of the trees to be drought tollerant. Not in all, but in most cases that detail they list for certain species and cultivars is only true once the tree or shrub is well established.

    I do want to rave about your ponderosa pines though. I got two almost 3 feet tall ones to plant on a vacant lot I am purchasing. Their wonderful appearing bark is what captured my interest in them. These trees came in during the summer just after our intermittent 45 days of triple digit heat had just passed in late August. But the high temps still got up to the mid and sometimes high 90s and it only rained once prior to my planting the trees and once about a month later. The trees were planted on a high spot of the lot which was about 2 to 3 feet above the water table. They never received any supplimental water from me, so by late October, just prior to driving out to the lot to check on the trees there, I had little hope those Ponderosa Pines would still be alive. To my great amazement, when I got there they were still green and very healthy looking. While the Thuja 'Green Giants,' which had pulled through the dry periods for more than a year and were still green when I planted the Ponderosa Pines, had all turned brown. Those Green Giants actually were planted in lower spots which did have access to slightly more moisture that the PP. The PPs had not seemed to grow any, but they were still alive. Happy! Happy! Happy! They seem to be just as viable left to the elements as the deep rooting oaks and pecan trees, which I planted on that lot and which I also did not provide for by giving them supplimental watering.

    Fortunately you will have the opportunity to care properly for your trees by customizing their watering and providing them beneficial compost so the watering can wash down needed nutrients to the trees' root systems.

    One special thing you need to consider and keep in mind is that it takes a slow soaking watering to get the hard pan clay beneath your top soil to soften deeply and allow the trees roots to penetrate much deeper than otherwise.

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Yes, I have considered the watering needs a lot. You make a very very good point.

    I have dedicated a total of 5-6 zones for drip system watering and/or spot watering. Two of these zones even allow me to hook up a hose in the yard and spot water or create temporary zones ... as needed and even put those onto the sprinkler system controller schedule as needed, since every zone is valve controlled. I have not put in the tubing or drip tubing yet, as I did not know where I needed to go or what I was going to water. But the system and pipes are there and these drip zones are functional out to remote junction boxes in the yard, where I can easily add this capability as I need it. Thats one reason why the yard is pretty much all mulch right now. I wanted to be able to but this stuff in easily and with lots of flexibility. I know this is a ton of zones, but I wanted to accomodate a lot of different watering needs for trees, shubs, etc ... and didn't want to be trapped with one run time or flow rate. I did my own sprinkler system, so installing a lot of zones was my own choice and admittedly gross overkill. I am using a sprinkler system controller that is computer-controlled called mcssprinklers and its amazing in all that it can do. Its definately the most capable solution available. So if I know how and when to water, I can easily implement the watering of these trees into my sprinkler controller and across various zones as needed. I even can track the gallons I use each day, per zone, etc. Its geeky, I know ... but I'm always aware of where I stand with the water bill.

    I could certainly use tips on the best ways to water trees and if there is a way to categorize their water needs into say 2,3,4 categories ... that would also help me design the watering systems for them.

    The pine trees are not really in place to shield the winds, because I'm not sure thats possible -- but mainly to screen out my neighbors windows and give me more privacy in the long run. I am leaning towards ponderosa pines because they are natives to where I live ... and the colorado blue spruce because I like the look and they are dense and would provide lots of privacy in strategic locations. Does my lot look overplanted in these diagram? I guess it looks rather busy to me, but considering my current (no tree) state, it sounds kind of good. Remember, trees in Colorado are a treat, not something you have ... but something you work towards for many years (unless you live in the mtns, which I don't). I live on a small mountain ridge, but no trees here per se.

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Here in Georgia some landscapers use "gator" bags to water new trees over a period of time (perhaps leave the bags in place for 6 months, not sure?). You could at least do this for the ones that might be outside of a watering zone or to keep from creating more zones than you want long term.

    I'd be careful about overdigging any hole. We planted two 1-2 caliper trees on an exposed site at the elementary school. The first hole was hand dug, the second hole was dug with an auger by two really enthusiastic guys. We have had no problem with the tree in the first hole. With the second one, the tree kept falling down, even with staking. We think the hole was too wide and the tree was so big that the wind would knock it over, snapping one of the stakes. It fell over about 6 times before we decided it would never work. We removed the poor abused tree, corrected the hole (I don't know what they did, it was a landscape company that fixed it for us) and planted a new one. No problems since. We did not amend the soil.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Treegator site

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    esh ga, that treegator truly is a blessing on sandy soil. For longer than 6 week use needs, it does show potential to do lots of damage for trees planted in silty or clay soils. You also, brought up a good point about the need to stake newly planted trees.

    Especially on bare root trees which are at least 6 feet tall or which are fast growing with large or dense canopies. Around here, if we do not stake river birch trees their tender roots, break near the root-flare as the tree's canopy catches the wind that blows the unstaked tree too far back and forth. In those cases at first glance the only sign of such root damage is the tree's drying leaves. the flexability of those young trees prevented the roots from being completely pulled out of the ground by the strong winds, but does not prevent major root breakage to occur in response to the stress. The only way to save a birch tree damaged like that is to immediately stake it and to pamper the tree, allowing it optimal chance to grow and stengthen replacement roots for those vital ones which previously broke.

    Since in poorly draining virgin clay soils we plant high most of our newly planted 6'and taller bare-root trees need to be staked. Due to decreased root ball size found with the B&B 6'and taller'trees, they also usually need to be staked.

    In moistened soft clay even established tree roots that normally hold agressivly to the soil can easily slip under strong wind forces.

    For such trees, the only method of staking that I feel good about using in clay soil is the "T" stake method.

    The tree's size and it's particular expose to being buffeted by strong winds guides me to choose correctly between the 4' or 6' size of "T" stake I use. "T" stakes are inexpensive and easily found in the fencing sections of HD or Lowes and other such stores. Around here we use short handled mallots to pound the "T" stakes into the ground.

    We use a variety of methods specifically designed to wrap around the tree's trunk and the "T" stake without causing damage to the tree's bark or restricting the trunk's growth. I usually am willing to spend more money to get the best quality product I can find in the tree tie designs.

    We set up the tension on the ties in a manner which still allows the tree some sway in response to wind blow. It is just that once a tree is staked in this manner it is protected from the excessive wind forces which both over stress roots and/or blow trees and their root balls off balance and even out of the ground.

    We leave the stakes on for about 3 years, and at least 4 times a year check the tension on the ties to ensure that the trees are not prevented from, wind force, swaying at an acceptable rate and that the ties are not restricting the trunk's girth growth or in any way damaging the bark.

    By attaching the trees in a manner where they still have acceptable movement, we allow the tree to continue its natural tendency to stengthen in response to wind forces.

    By removing the stakes after 3 years we prevent the tree from becoming too dependant on the stakes, and at that time it is also usually still relatively easy to remove the stake without causing major damage to the tree's newly established root system.

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    first ... landscape fabric???? ... right up there with amending the soil .. and fertilizing trees ... those who sell it are more than willing to recommend it ... no 'green thumb' in their right mind uses it .. let alone recommends it .. period ... if God had meant spun/woven material to be necessary in the yard.. he would have developed a tree that makes its own ... FOLLOW THE MONEY ... skip it.. put it out of your mind.. forget it.. get the point!!!!!

    oh wait .. God/ma earth did develop a system under trees ... its called mulch ... the natural accumulation of leaves, sticks, twigs. etc .... we can add to the with other versions of mulch ... go figure ...

    the minute you lay down fabric ... NO MATTER what you do .. wind borne weed seeds and soil begin to accumulate ... and are trapped on top of your fabric.. and then ... root down through it ... making it nearly impossible to remove weeds ... go figure ...

    natural mulch ... or proper mulch .. softens the soil ... and allows proper removal of weeds in the future ... enough on that.. off the soapbox ...

    so far.. we have clarified your need to amend [NOT!!!]... and now.. the need for fabric [NOT!!] ... so lets cover one more thing .. if it hasn't been already .... unless a soil test .. yeah .. back to that ... indicates something lacking .. or your extension agent just knows .... YOU SHOULD NEVER "NEED"TO FETILIZE a tree ... period ... frankly .... the mulch will do that over the years as it breaks down and 'feeds' the soil ...

    NEVER WASTE MONEY ON A TREE fetilizer STAKE .... please ...

    finally ... TREES .... ONLY NEED WATER DURING THE YEAR OF PLANTING .... and only in drought the second year .... ergo ... installation of irrigation is .. again .. a waste of money .... think of your trees as 'free range' ... and how you can make them such in the future ...

    the only recommendation that i have in that regard .. considering the volume of plants ... would be to put down a drip line ... that you would remove.. or move to another location in the future.. it just does not need to be a permanent application ....

    and i told you in the first post .... you have to insert a finger ... or dig a small hole with a hand trowel .. and discover how the water is reacting in your soil ... i do NOT think that we can give you any true idea as to how water your plants ...

    trees need water .. trees need to dry out in between waterings ... IT IS NOT A TIMER/COMPUTER thing .... and that is why irrigation is problematic .... dry ... but not drought is better for all trees .. if i had to generalize ... and in that statement i will generate many opinions as to why it is wrong.. and in the shear number of opinions .. you will understand .. why you cant program a computer to take care of it ...

    continued good luck


  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Ken is exactly right about that landscape fabric. Years ago, my parents tried some of that stuff in the yard. It worked to keep down weeds for a while, maybe a year or so, but then the weeds were back. Worse, the fabric looked lousy when you could see it since it is artificial, and it seemed to hinder the development of plant roots under it.

    In the end, the fabric did little to keep out the weeds, weakened the plants under it, looked lousy as it fell apart and aged, and was an absolute chore to rip up once we finally got sick of it. Note that ripping it up destroyed many of the fine feeder roots for the plants it surrounded, but "fortunately" they were all dead or dying anyway (hybrid tea roses, for those keeping track - they are picky plants, but the fabric did not help.)

    I haven't seen anyone use that fabric seriously in years, except for the nitwits who maintain the small woodlands at work. They have some of that junk around the edge, and it looks lousy and inhibits the growth of trees in that area, which is not a good thing. Tree seeds also can't breech it, so we end up with fewer trees.

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Thanks, thanks and more thanks.

    Regarding the landscaping fabric -- my brother, who has large and sometimes award winning landscape at his home -- convinced me that I "do not need fabric".

    This is after living at a house with no fabric, but also no mulch and not enough rock ... so thus, weeds, weeds and more weeds.

    But still, my brother told me the things your saying and convinced my the no landscape fabric was needed.

    Then the inevitable begin to happen as I personally did my own yard landscaping: First, my father told me that I was crazy not to use the fabric. Then my neighbor told me I was an idiot and would regret. In each case, I explained that my brother (who knows way more about this than I) had explained to me that it was essentially worthless and probably even worse than no fabric at all.

    So my mind started playing games on me -- saying: "your doing this all wrong" ... so I did install some fabric on maybe 20% of the back yard, along the fence ... but my first year has convinced me that it was absolutely worthless and I wouldn't do it again.

    My brother was right. And so are those of you telling me right now .. I know, I know ... now I'm a believer.

    I was not implying that my computer could magically know what my trees would need ... but that I coud automate whatever I decide and your right, it might very well be a temporary system. All the tress I selected are drought tolerant, so I am starting with low water users, which should help. That said, my drip capabilities will be used for other plants, scrubs, not just trees. But still, if I can water less and save $$, I certainly WILL.

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I have to say that you have convinced me that amending is NOT necessary.

    The worst thing about the internet is that when I do a google search for: colorado trees planting ... I get about 80-90% links to pages that say to amend the soil with a 1/3 to 2/3 ratio between organic material and native soil.

    A very small percentage of those sites at least admit that its "controversial" or "subject to debate", but but does not give any firm advise on any downsides of amending.

    I did find one or two web pages actually differentiated between "modifying" and "amending" the soil.

    Basically, they say the process of digging up the dirt and putting it back is modifying it.

    They seem to indicate that the main benefit is just digging up the soil (to plant the tree) and then putting it back, but not highly compacted. So "modifying" the soil it good, but not necessarily amending it.

    So I won't be amending, but I will be following the techniques mentioned here and perhaps in the link below.
    It might be helpful to use a small hand tiller (mantis??)
    to work the hole and create the irregular saucer shaped holes I will be creating.

    Here is a link that might be useful: tree planting link

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Yay!!!!!!! (That we convinced you!)

    I wouldn't pulverize the soil too much; that can cause some problems with clayey soils. You may find that if you use that auger with some finesse, you'll be able to get the holes you want, plus break up the worst of the clods. Just a thought. You might be more comfortable with the tiller.

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Yeah, I've read having clods is fine, as long is they are not too big and even read that part of the soil structure for clay is being kept together, so pulverizing it too mcuh isn't good either.

    Honestly, most of my trees will be planted in builder "de-rocked backfill", which is about 12-17" deep and significantly easier to dig than some of the underlying harder clay. I could probably do it all with a shovel, or perhaps do a simple 12" hole, then shovel the sides by hand shovel to get the saucer shape.

    My soil, as seen during my excavation of the ground for sprinkler installation ... has strange layers, because it was this sandy clay mix on top, then a hard clay layer 12-17" down but only 4-6" thick, then a really nice soil under that. When digging into this nice layer, it smelled like cattle yard ... so I suspect this ranchland where my house is, used to be a little grassy valley at the bottom of hill, where the cows used to graze a lot.

    Too bad my really nice soil is under the crappy clay and really too deep to plant into (about 2'-3' down).

    The stuff the builder backfilled makes digging a lot easier, but I'm just not sure what it is. I might soil test it, cause its not pure clay and might even be a little sandy. I can't clump it in my hand very easily.

    This summer, my yard got flooded a lot, when brought in loads of topsoil from the 10+ acres above my lot which were under construction and stripped of vegetation. Sometimes I wonder if that eroded topsoil is good stuff or not, it looks good, but its only on the top layers of the flooded out areas.

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    as to your question RE: augering... yes yes yes. I own a stand on skid steer and auger - it's a back saver. Besides the auger and bits, rent a set of forks for carrying the trees too. We install some large material at times that require 4 30" holes be drilled and then we clean out between them but then I have to use a bigger skid for the lifting...

    just watch out with the bits, some of the larger ones can have a smaller starter on the bottem and that hole will need to be filled and repacked before planting, to insure a flat bottem.

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Bunkers, your last posting indicates less and less that you are dealing with a severly problematic, hardpan-clay situation. That's great.

    As for the top soil washed onto your lot, what a huge blessing that most likely will turn out to be for you. You actually got that upper area's best remaining topsoil at no charge to you.

    Your report of the topsoil wash onto your property does make me wonder what the developer has done to protect your property from ever being flash flooded.

    As for the area once being a farm area, even though you have indicated that level which has been fairly deeply buried is creating some natural forming gaseous vapors (probably beginning to be mixed with some form of sulfur dioxide), I do not think that your more deep rooting trees will suffer any from that. As far as the doubt you indicated I do not know if the deep rooting varieties of your trees will at one point begin to benefit from that deeply buried organic level. It will not be like a composting situation of the vegitation; since such types of buried vegitation and organic materials, which existed on the farm, often remain fairly intact for many decades if water displaces all the subsurface oxygen which usually fills any voids found in that layer.

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    one more thing.... there always is.. lol ....

    with your plethora of crabapples... i hope you have chosen those which are resistant to the various blights/diseases that can afflict such ....

    with careful selection .. you can avoid the need for chemicals in the future ...

    i, personally, do not know the good from the bad ... perhaps a new post will help provide others with the info ... i wonder if there is a crab forum ....


  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    So long story short: here I am, ready to get my trees next week and still no holes dug yet. Winter in Colorado was unusually awful and I was buried from December through 3rd week in March. Had a couple weeks to dig holes in nice weather -- didn't, wife said too early ... and it's been crap weather since (rain all day, or snow).

    So this weekend the weather MIGHT cooperate ... being 50's on Sat and 60's on Sun ... so I'm thinking about getting a ditch witch with a 36" hydraulic auger on it and doing the following for each hole I dig.

    I have a bad back -- yeah, it's been repaired -- but I'm using the machine mainly to make things easier on myself and yes, faster.

    The hole locations have been determined on my plans, which have changed a bit since I last posted the plans here ... and I still need to mark them in the yard and make sure they avoid the utilites [ which have been marked ]. THe buried utilities should be 19" down (or more). When I trench my entire back yard for sprinklers, I never had a thing and was working with a 10-14" deep trench. The utility company said a minimum of 17", but that was done before my builder back-filled and additional 6-18" on top of the original grade.

    So I'll rake back the mulch in a 4' (or 5') wide circle around each hole location, then auger out the 3' diameter hole, only down 12-15" max. This is for the dirt to have somewhere to go without ruining too much mulch in the process. [Q: should I even worry about my 4-5" of mulch?]
    The plan would be to rake the mulch back around the tree (not too close) after the trees are planted. Then I'll back fill the outer 10-12" of the 3' hole by hand (shovelling) the edges to create a bowl shape hole which is full depth in the center 12-15" and then tapered to the edges with the back fill.

    Do I need to rake the mulch back, or could I just auger into the mulch and all?

    Any ideas or comments appreciated.

    THe local "colorado experts" still say amending is normal around here, but I'm tempted to skip it and let the trees finds happiness in what I have. I could mix some mulch in if that would help. My mulch is about 2 years old and nice and black (soil-like) on the bottom.

    Planting about 15 bare root trees and 15 balled and bulapped. I'm having to kind of guess on the actual size of the trees since I really don't know till next week when I go to pick them up. They are advertised as 1.25" caliper.


  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    take care of the bare root first .... have all holes ready .. and get them in ASAP ... do the same with hay as noted below, if you need to hold them over even for one day .... do not leave them standing in water .... if you have a veggie garden ... dig a trench and stick them in and hold them over ...

    and the b&b ... can probably be left in that state for a few weeks [if necessary] with little negative impact .... stack them all close together.... a bale or 2 of straw ... water the hay to keep it in place... and work at your leisure ...

    by stacking i mean ... 5 in a line ... lay on side ... 5 more in a second line ... push over on top of the first ... then the third bunch ... cover with hay ... which will mow down to nothing once it dries ... and can be used as a mulch near the trees ...

    whatever you do .. save your back .... and report back when done ....

    if you take pix as you do the first.. maybe we can give feedback as you go ... but bottom line.. just do it .... and good luck


  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Thanks to everyone for their help and advice ... I've learned a lot but still have a long ways to go.

    We had great weather, overcast, humid -- not hot, not too cold ... covered up the trees with wet mulch the city provided and got them to my house easily and wrapped in tarps for protection from the wind.

    The trees were not particularly heavy, and the bare root trees were in 5 packs and easy to carry under 1 arm. The balled and burlapped were easy enough to carry one at a time per person. Only a couple required two persons to carry ... mainly due to larger root balls.

    We got all 15 bareroot trees planted in about 30 minutes using the pre-augered 30" holes. The holes were way too big, so we backfilled them as needed prior to burying the roots. I tell you, these bare root trees were a breeze -- I can see why people like going this route. This is the SMART way to plant trees !!!

    I didn't really amend them, but did mix in a little 2 year old mulch into the backfill, as it practically looked like dirt anyways. I would say the amending was very limited cause the focus was on planting and not amending.

    So I got all 28 trees planted within 24 hours and the bareroots all within an hour. I was very happy/satisfied.

    I've since planted about 10 more trees -- so I'm basically out of room to plant much more till my drainage project is completed.

    They have put dual 15" precast concrete pipes way deep through the South side of my property and an above-groupd emergency swale is still pending construction. It will have a lot of 3-4" cobble in the backyard and parts of the front, then becoming a grass lined swale in the front yard.

    Any ideas on trees apprepriate for planting alongside the swale would be appreciate. We don't want any invasive stuff and because of the above and below ground stuff (plus a water line), anything planted should probably be shallow rooted.

    Thanks again,