La Veta's Park & Tree Board works diligently to add to the visual impact of La Veta's greenery in the park, trails and along the streets. The Board's activities include obtaining and fulfilling grants, requests for tree work, visual inspections, and advice for the community. The Board members are also actively involved with the physical labor of pruning trees from the ground, planting trees and tree care such as watering and mulching new trees.
Trees and Shrubs to Plant for Conservation Purposes
Tree selection is one of the most important investment decisions a home owner makes when landscaping a new home or replacing a tree lost to damage or disease. Most trees can outlive the people who plant them, therefore the impact of this decision is one that can influence a lifetime. Matching the tree to the site is critical; the following site and tree demands should be considered before buying and planting a tree.
- Available space above and below ground
- Water availability
- Soil texture and pH
- Sunlight levels/exposure
- Weather and other environmental factors
- Growth rate of the species selected
- Mature size (adequate space between tree and other objects like home and other trees)
- Hardiness – ability of a plant to survive low temperatures
- Heat tolerance and drought tolerance
- Pest resistance
- Maintenance issues
- Native vs. non-native species
The Colorado State Forest Service provides a good resource for tree selection which includes information on growth, size, drought resistance, cold hardiness, life span, elevation, possible problems, and wildlife value.
Trees to avoid!
Selecting the right tree for the right place can help reduce the potential for catastrophic loss of trees by insects, disease or environmental factors. We can’t control the weather, but we can use discernment in selecting trees to plant. A variety of tree species should be planted so no single species represents more than 10-15 percent of a community’s total tree population. Many trees are not recommended because of brittle wood, susceptibility to insects and diseases, or their ability to spread in to native ecosystems and out-compete native species, while others simply do not grow well in our climate. The following is a list of tree species NOT recommended for the Front Range of Colorado:
- Austree (Salix alba x matsudana)
- Aspen (Populus tremuloides)
- Silver maple (Acer saccharinum)
- Russian-olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia)
- Tree-of-Heaven (Ailanthus altissima)
- Tamarisk (Tamarix spp.)
- Willows (Salix spp.)
- White-Barked Birches (Betula spp.)
- Non-native hybrid poplars/cottonwoods (Populus spp.)
- Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila)
Selecting Trees at the Nursery
When you buy a high-quality tree, plant it correctly, and treat it properly, you and your tree will benefit greatly for many years. When you buy a low-quality tree, you and your tree will have many costly problems even if you take great care in planting and maintenance. Consider the following when selecting a tree at the nursery:
- Tree should appear healthy. No discolored bark, wilted leaves, etc.
- Branches should be spaced evenly around the trunk
- Tree trunk should taper from a solid base, gradually becoming more slender towards the top. Look for the tree flair where the tree meets the soil.
- Tree foliage and branches should be distributed on upper 2/3 of tree.
- Tree should contain a central, dominant leader.
- Tree should be free from mechanical damage.
- Tree should be free from insects and diseases.
Roots should not be girdling, circling or pot bound.
Colorado State Forest Service Nursery
The Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) Nursery, located in Fort Collins, is the state’s leader in producing low-cost, Colorado-grown seedling trees and shrubs for conservation purposes. The CSFS Nursery produces more than 40 species, all selected for their hardiness and adaptability, which are ideal for landowners to use for conservation in Colorado’s diverse environments. Situated on 130 acres managed for field production of bare-root seedlings, the nursery also uses 18,000 square feet of greenhouse space for container plant production. Nursery staff continuously conduct trials to identify new species that will address landowner needs.
For more information about the program, you can go to https://csfs.colostate.edu/
Tree Planting Tips
- Plant the top of the root ball slightly above ground level. The root collar (flare) must be visible one inch above final grade. This approach helps trees which may settle into the soil over time.
- Set root ball on solid ground and not on loose backfill in the hole; this will eliminate settling.
- Remove at least the top 2/3 of all wire and baskets from balled and burlapped trees and completely remove containers from containerized stock.
- Adding peat moss or manure to soil in the planting hole is NOT recommended. (These can cause a “potted tree” effect and restrict root growth.) Backfill hole with original soil. If desired, add 1/4 inch of good compost to the top of the soil around the tree and root ball.
- Do not fertilize at planting time.
- Optimum planting periods are from March 15 to June 15 and from September 1 to October 15.
The correct amount of water is the most important factor in ensuring proper tree establishment. Too much water can be as damaging to a newly planted tree as too little water, so be sure to periodically check soil moisture by examining the soil in the area of the roots. Follow these recommendations to help your tree establish in the landscape:
Water deeply and slowly. Apply water so it moistens the critical root zone (from near the trunk of the tree to the drip line) to a depth of 5-6 inches. The drip line can be found by following an imaginary line from the edge of the branches to the ground; this part of the root is where growth occurs. To apply water, a small, inexpensive, round, flat sprinkler is recommended: 3-6 inches in diameter, with one hole that sprays a cone-shaped fountain up in the air. Set it to low flow so droplets are visible. Avoid turning the flow too high, as this creates a mist that evaporates quickly out of the air. The goal is even moisture. Bubblers, hose-end soaking and soaker hoses reduce evaporation, but they don’t distribute the water evenly over the root system.
The next day after watering, dig down about 5 inches deep with a garden trowel. Feel the soil at the bottom of the hole. The soil should be moist down to 5 inches. The soil should feel like the surface of a sponge that’s been thoroughly wrung out, not too wet or muddy. If it’s sopping wet, that’s too much. Cut back on your next watering day. If the soil isn’t moist at the bottom, add more time on your next watering day. Keep adjusting your watering time until you’re consistently getting the soil moist down to about five inches deep.
Each time you water, move the sprinklers or hoses around under the tree so that the correct amount of water is applied everywhere under the canopy all the way to drip line. If water is restricted, then cover only the area under the outer half of the canopy (from drip line to a point halfway between trunk and drip line) where most of the fine water-absorbing roots are located.
Consistent moisture is essential. Maintaining consistent soil moisture allows for better root water absorption. Drought stressed or over-watered trees are more vulnerable to disease and insect infestations, as well as branch dieback.
When should I water? Generally, water a newly planted tree every 3-5 days during the growing season, depending on weather and soil conditions. Remember that newly planted trees need water during dry periods in the winter months as well. Try to water at least once a month in the dormant season. The frequency of watering depends on the weather (including wind), temperature, site conditions and watering restrictions. As the trees become established
How much water should I apply? Utilize the following “rule of thumb” for watering: apply 10 gallons of water per inch of tree diameter, for instance a 1 inch tree will require 10 gallons of water each time it is watered. For mature trees 10 inches in diameter or more, apply 15 gallons of water per inch of tree diameter. Use a ruler to measure your tree’s diameter.
Mulch helps conserve soil moisture. Mulch is critical to conserve soil moisture. Apply organic mulch within the drip line, at a depth of 2 inches. During hot, dry weather, a thick layer of mulch can intercept most of the water before it reaches the ground. It’s best to eliminate turf prior to adding mulch. Leave a 3 inch space between the mulch and trunk of trees. Mulch materials may include wood chips, bark, leaves and evergreen needles. Old mulches can get crusty and even repel water. Break up the surface of the mulch or increase the water several times during the growing season. Mulch may need to be added at the start of each growing season. Mature trees with mulch under them are more water-efficient than trees with grass.
Limit pruning of newly planted trees to corrective pruning. Remove torn or broken branches (save other pruning measures for the second or third year). Once the tree has established a good root system after planting (usually within 1 to 3 years), proper pruning is essential in developing a tree with a strong structure and desirable form. Trees that receive the appropriate pruning measures while they are young will require little corrective pruning when they mature. Location of a pruning cut is critical to a tree’s response in growth and wound closure. Pruning cuts should be made just outside the branch collar. Since the branch collar contains trunk or parent branch tissues, the tree will be damaged unnecessarily if you remove or damage it. In fact, if the cut is large, the tree may suffer permanent internal decay from an improper pruning cut. For most young trees, maintain a single dominant leader. Do not prune back the tip of this leader. Do not allow secondary branches to outgrow the leader. Sometimes a tree will develop double leaders known as codominant stems. These can lead to structural weaknesses, so it is best to remove one while the tree is young. A good structure of primary scaffold branches should be established while the tree is young. The scaffold branches provide the framework of the mature tree. Properly trained young trees will develop a strong structure that will require less corrective pruning as they mature. The goal in training young trees is to establish a strong trunk with sturdy well-spaced branches. After the tree is established, the primary pruning needed is to remove dead branches or branches that cross other branches.
Do Not Top Your Trees!
Avoid topping trees. Topping leads to:
- Insects and diseases
- Weak limbs
- Rapid new growth
- Tree death
- Increased maintenance costs
Trees that have been topped may become hazardous and unsightly.
This does not provide all information, on all trees, for all locations. Each tree species has its own particular needs. The Colorado Tree Coalition strongly urges you to contact your local tree expert for more information, please call your:
- Community tree board
- City Forester
- City’s Parks Department
- Forestry Consultant
- Tree Nursery
- Colorado State University Cooperative Extension
- Colorado State Forest Service District Office (the source of most of this information)