Plant and Care for Trees
Trees provide us with so many benefits, which makes planting trees always worth the time and effort. Trees are a cost-effective means of cleaning our air and water, reducing our need for energy, and making us feel better.
Interested in Planting a Tree?
There are a few things to consider before the tree goes in the ground. By making a handful of careful choices your tree will be healthier and you’ll enjoy it more. You need to think about three things first: where to put it, what species is best and how to select the right tree from the nursery.
1. Where to Plant Your New Tree
The right tree in the right place will give a lot back for many decades. In the right place, trees save energy by protecting buildings from winter winds or hot sun. Select a place to plant and visualize how much room there is for a tree to grow. Here are some things to consider:
Always call Miss-Utility at 1.800.257.7777 or submit a request online before you dig. It’s safe and it’s the law.
2. What Kind of Tree Do You Want?
Now that you’ve identified a place to plant a tree, you need to select the best tree for that place. Selecting the right tree in the right place will help ensure your new tree will grow and thrive for a long time. Here are some things to consider when choosing a tree species:
Did you know that you can search any tree for information and images? Just enter the name of a tree into your favorite search engine.
Select the Best Trees to Buy from a Nursery
Here are some things to look for at the nursery when selecting a tree to buy:
Now that you have selected a high quality tree, the right species, and a great place to plant it, here’s how to put it in the ground and give it a good start.
When to Plant Your New Tree
Is now the best time to plant? Trees planted in the fall and winter start growing roots and taking in nutrients from the soil right away. Trees planted in early spring also have a head start. They have more time to grow new roots and recover from being transplanted before putting out leaves and flowers in the spring. They are better able to survive the heat of August. Therefore it is best to plant trees in the fall and early spring. In Montgomery County, you should not plant trees between mid May and mid September. It is too hot and the leaves need more water than the disturbed roots can provide.
How to Plant Your New Tree
Want to plant your own tree but don't know how? It’s well worth a few minutes to learn how to plant correctly. It’s not hard yet it makes a big difference in how long your tree survives. There are a lot of websites with great instructions on how to plant trees. Here are several that stand out.
Always call Miss-Utility at 1.800.257.7777 or submit a request online before you dig. It’s safe and it’s the law.
A few more things to do for your new tree immediately after planting…
✔ Do water your tree. This initial watering is to remove air pockets and settle the soil around the roots. Additional water is generally not needed until the heat of summer.
✔ Do put mulch around the tree and replace it at least twice a year.
✔ Do protect the tree from deer browsing and buck rubbing.
✔ Do not fertilize a newly planted tree. During the second summer after you planted the tree AND if the surrounding grass is not growing well, test the soil. If the results indicated that fertilizer is needed, then apply it in late November.
Caring for Trees
Mulch, Mulch, Mulch, but not too much…
Put mulch around all of your trees, large and small ones, twice a year. Mulching does several important things:
How Do I Mulch My Tree?
Put a fresh layer of undyed natural mulch around all of your trees twice a year. The mulch depth should be maintained at 3 inches deep (but not more than four). It is important to maintain 3" of mulch, not add 3" every application, to avoid over mulching.
The ring of mulch should be about 3 feet wide around small trees and as large as possible around big trees, preferably out to the dripline. Mulch should never touch the stem of a tree – keep it about 3 inches away.
Why is too much mulch a bad thing? Mulch holds in moisture and warmth. This is generally good for a tree but too much mulch makes it too hot and moist. And this makes it a great place for bacteria and fungus that can harm your tree to grow. Therefore, it is important to never put more than 4 inches of mulch around your trees.
Check out our Mulch Meters for exactly how much mulch your tree needs and additional tips on mulch. Download a set of printable Mulch Meters! (PDF, 168K)
WEEDS! Get rid of them – keep the weeds out of the mulch around your trees. Weeds and grass use a lot of water and nutrients that your trees need. However, don't use weed matting as it can prevent water from getting to your tree. The best method for weed removal is hand pulling and disposing of the weeds elsewhere.
A Word about Watering Trees
Newly planted trees must have extra water during hot dry summer months. In fact, nearly all trees, even very large ones benefit from extra water in the heat of July and August. Watering big trees helps reduce the stress of urban life and makes trees healthier. Between the Fourth of July and Labor Day, water your trees each week that we don’t receive a good rainfall.
How do you give your trees enough water, but also conserve water at the same time?
The answer is: Slow and Steady
Tree roots require a slow drip watering. This allows the water to seep below grass and down to the tree roots where it is needed. Do not water with a spray nozzle or sprinkle – this just waters the grass and very little gets to the tree roots. Here are several good methods that use less water and are more effective for trees.
Young trees should receive about 25 gallons of water per week.
In Montgomery County, most newly planted trees must be protected from deer. White-tailed deer damage young trees in two different ways. They eat, or browse, the trees, especially the buds. And the males rub their antlers along the stem and scrape off the tree’s bark. To protect your trees, you must stop the deer from eating and rubbing.
How do you prevent damage from deer browsing, or eating, the trees? The easiest way is to plant a tree that is taller than 6 feet. The deer will still eat some lower branches but they will not be able to reach enough to cause damage to your trees. Another way is to put a 5-foot tall welded-wire cage around your trees.
How do you prevent buck rubs? There are several ways to stop the rubbing. The easiest is to put long pieces of rebar on opposite sides of the stem, or trunk. Place the rebar as close to the stem as possible. Another way is to put a cage around the tree. The best material for a cage is 4-foot tall welded wire or 4-foot tall heavy-duty black plastic mesh sleeves.
Deep Root Fertilization
You may not hear them complaining, but your trees are hungry. Trees growing in our yards and cities rarely receive the same nutrients they would if they were growing in a forest. In order to increase your trees’ vigor, you should add nutrients into the soil. Well-nourished trees are stronger and less susceptible to disease, insects, drought, and other stresses.
How do you fertilize a tree?
The best, cheapest, and easiest way to fertilize a tree is to mix leaves into the mulch. First, make sure you have a good mulch ring around each tree. Then each October, mix leaves into the mulch around each tree. Use leaves from your lawn, especially ones that have been chopped into smaller pieces with the mower. The decomposing mulch and leaves add nutrients and structure to the soil. These are essential for healthy trees.
What about other fertilizers for your trees?
There are times when mixing leaves into the mulch is not enough. The best way to figure out when other fertilizers need to be added and what your soil needs is to test your soil.
Once a soil test confirms that additional fertilizers are needed, it is essential to get the fertilizer to the tree’s roots. When tree fertilizers are spread over grass, like lawn fertilizers, the result is often better grass and weeds rather than improved tree growth. Getting fertilizer below the grass to the roots of trees is important and not overly complex. Many licensed tree care companies offer this service, but it can also be done on your own with the proper supplies including an auger or fertilizer probe, hose, and a measuring tape.
“How to” Tips for fertilizing your trees:
Visualize your target, where to put the fertilizer?
Fertilize under the branches of the tree in a grid formation, about every 2 ft. Start at the outside, or the ends of the branches, and go in towards the stem of the tree. For all trees, put fertilizer in about 2/3 of the way from the tips of the branches in to the tree trunk. For very large trees, stay about 6-8 feet away from the stem of the tree and work out to the tips of the branches.
Financial Incentives for Planting Trees
Interested in planting a tree? Consider the financial incentives below before purchasing your tree.
The RainScapes Rewards Rebates Program
The County offers technical and financial assistance (in the form of rebates) to encourage property owners to implement RainScapes techniques on their property, including planting trees to add to the tree canopy.
To participate, your property must be located in Montgomery County, outside of the municipal limits of the City of Rockville, City of Takoma Park, or City of Gaithersburg. Projects are not eligible if they are associated with permit approval requirements for new building construction, additions, or renovations.
The program is funded each fiscal year (The FY begins July 1 and ends June 30). Annual funds for the programs are limited, so rebates will be awarded on a first-come-first-served basis.
To qualify for a Tree Canopy Rebate:
Trees must be planted on private property. Rebates will not be awarded for trees planted in the public right-of-way (other programs exist for right-of-way trees).
New trees must be:
Pre-approval for the tree canopy rebate is required - please contact Rainscapes@montgomerycountymd.gov for more information.
The RainScapes program also provides technical assistance to help with the installation of your tree. They have a wealth of information, expertise and want to help!
Additional Financial Incentives
Tree Montgomery is a new program to plant shade trees for free. The Department of Environmental Protection is looking for places to plant new trees especially in yards of single family homes, parking lots, and multi-family communities. Follow the link to apply for a new tree on your property!
TREE-Mendous Maryland is a program that provides high quality native trees at low cost to be planted on public lands including those owned by home owner associations.
Plant a tree and save some green!
Two COUPONS are available for you to plant trees. It is a great time to plant green and save green!
Be counted towards the state’s goal of 50,000 trees by 2010 – and save $25 off your new tree! Get your printable discount coupon . After planting, register your trees. Let’s make Montgomery County one of the best contributors in the State!
Montgomery Planning Department‘s program “Leaves for Neighborhoods” will save you green when you plant trees. Print the coupon to save $25 off a tree purchase of $75 or more.
Look for nurseries participating in both programs and use both coupons together to save the most!