Seedlings obtained from the Washtenaw County Conservation District are intended for reforestation, windbreaks and screens, erosion control and wildlife plantings. They are adaptable, fast growing plants that will naturalize quickly. Although they may be used for landscaping purposes, that is not their primary purpose.
For landscape purposes, homeowners may be more satisfied with larger plants purchased from landscape nurseries. Landscape plants may offer more disease or insect resistance, better flower or fall colors and be less "wild" in appearance.
Questions? If you have questions as you read through this Tree & Shrub Planting Guide, call the Conservation District Office at (734) 761-6721 X 5.
Site Selection Consider the plant's characteristics: Does it need shade, full sun, dry or moist soil? How tall will it grow and how wide?Consider what existing natural or man-made features on your site may influence what trees and shrubs you plant and where. Avoid the following:
Planting shade intolerant trees under mature trees.
Planting on septic drain fields.
Planting trees within 10-12' of overhead wires.
Planting trees within 10-12' of buildings.
Planting evergreens where they may obstruct vision near roads.
Planting salt intolerant plants next to roadways.
Growth Rates All seedlings usually grow slowly for 2-4 years after planting or transplanting and more rapidly after that. A good root system must be developed before seedlings reach their optimum growth rates. Generally, rapid to moderate growth rate trees and shrubs will reach 5-6 feet tall in 7-9 years, while moderate to slow growth rate trees and shrubs will take 9-11 years to reach the same height. Soils, weather, weed and grass competition, and animal/human damage will effect growth rates.
Site Preparation Prior to Planting Proper site preparation includes determining reducing weeds or other vegetation which will compete with the trees for light, water and nutrients. This will help insure better tree survival. See chart below for some suggested weed control methods based on existing ground cover.
When planting in bare soil, you may want to plant a cover crop between the rows of trees to prevent water and wind erosion.
Consideration should also be given to the spacing between each tree and between rows of trees for larger plantings. See chart below for suggested spacings based on your planting purpose, number of trees to be planted, equipment and time available.
Pre-planting Care Plant seedlings as soon as possible after receiving them, keeping roots moist throughout the planting process. Exposure to sun and wind can kill a seedling in a short time. If necessary, mist or sprinkle seedlings with water to keep them moist. Do not soak seedlings roots in water for an extended time as the moisture retaining soil particles on the roots will be washed off, and the trees may drown. Water absorbent/retention dips may help conserve moisture in dry weather.
If you cannot plant immediately, store seedlings in a cool, shaded location for up to 7-10 days, misting or sprinkling seedlings with water each day. For storing a number of large bundles of trees, avoid poor air circulation and heat build-up by not stacking bundles in layers more than two bundles high. If planting is delayed more than 7-10 days, dig a trench in the soil in a shady area or corner of the garden. Place seedlings in the trench and cover roots with soil. Keep them evenly moist. Refer to Figure 3 below.
Spring Planting Plant in the spring as soon as possible after the frost is out of the ground.
Fall Planting Care must be taken when selecting fall planting sites and soils for the best winter survival. Avoid planting in low areas that may collect water and freeze, damaging trees. Fall planting is best on light soils (sands, loamy sands and sandy loams), after seedling buds are dormant and until frost or snow interferes. Limit planting in heavier clay soils because they have a greater tendency to freeze and thaw, causing trees to be heaved out of the ground. Use mulch to help moderate soil temperatures and reduce heaving.
Planting Plant seedlings with a tree planting machine, or by hand, using a planting bar, shovel, spade or other tool. Refer to Figure 1 and 2 below. Dig a trench or hole deep and wide enough to permit the roots to spread out in a natural uncurled position. This helps avoid "J" or "L" rooting patterns, which occur when the hole is too shallow. Refer to Figure 4 below. Plant seedlings in a vertical position with the root collars approximately 1" below the soil surface to ensure adequate coverage of the roots with soil.
Firmly pack the soil around the seedlings to eliminate air pockets. Place seedlings in the middle of the prepared site to ensure maximum distance from competing vegetation. To reduce exposure time of roots to the air, remove one seedling at a time when hand planting and in small quantities when machine planting. Long roots may be pruned to 8" in length from the root collar, using a sharp knife.
Seedlings may also be planted in nursery beds until they increase in size. Plant seedlings 12" apart, control weed competition and provide water as needed. Transplant them to their permanent location after 2-3 years in the nursery bed. Do so in early spring when the soil can first be dug and before buds begin growing. Dig as large of a rootball as possible, leaving the soil attached to the roots. Plants left in the nursery bed for longer than 2-3 years may not transplant as well as when they are smaller.
Maintenance In general, check the survival and condition of seedlings the first and second year and replant as needed.
Weed Control Control competing vegetation, where needed, during the first 2-3 years by mowing between rows, cultivating, mulching and/or herbicide treatment. Keep herbicides off seedlings to avoid damaging them. Protect seedlings by cutting the bottom out of a plastic gallon jug and attaching a broom handle or piece of dowel rod through the spout end of the jug. The jug can be easily placed over seedlings during herbicide treatment.
Watering If possible, during dry periods, water seedlings with one good soaking per week, totaling 1" of water. Discontinue watering in late August to encourage plants to become more winter hardy.
Fertilizing In early spring of the 2th-4th years after planting, seedlings can be fertilized by sprinkling 1/4 pound of a balanced fertilizer like 12-12-12, around each seedling and working it into the soil. Fertilizer spikes, available at garden centers, or slow release fertilizer tablets sold by the Conservation District, can also be used.
Animal Control Exclude livestock and pets from all plantings and protect from wild animals by using shelters, guards, repellents or fencing.
Disease & Insect Control Occasionally diseases or insects may attack tree and shrub plantings. For help with diagnosis and treatment options, call the Master Gardener Hotline, telephone: (888) 678-3464.
Additional Information MSU Extension offers a variety of publications at nominal fees that can assist you in managing your tree and shrub plantings. See the MSU Extension Bookstore, Forestry publications page. Copies of some of these publications may also be available locally at the Washtenaw County MSU Extension office. To check local availability and costs, contact the Extension office at (734) 997-1678.
Washtenaw County Conservation District Copyright 2016