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home : braidwood journal : braidwood journal May 25, 2016

4/29/2014 6:28:00 PM
Branching out for tree growing success
The dos and don'ts for growing the perfect tree
RESTING ON 90 acres in nearby Mazon, Spring Grove Nursery offers a diverse and superior selection of Shade, Ornamental, and Evergreen trees. The nursery offers landscape contractors, garden centers, municipalities, park districts, and landscape architects a collection of healthy specimen trees to utilize in their projects.
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RESTING ON 90 acres in nearby Mazon, Spring Grove Nursery offers a diverse and superior selection of Shade, Ornamental, and Evergreen trees. The nursery offers landscape contractors, garden centers, municipalities, park districts, and landscape architects a collection of healthy specimen trees to utilize in their projects.

by Tonya Michalec
Staff writer

Growing a tree in your yard should be rather easy since forests cover about 31 percent of the world's land mass and those trees don't seem to be receiving any special attention. But, according to tree experts, there is a bit more to the process than just digging a hole and plopping in a sapling.

Often knowing a bit more about what to look for when selecting a tree or tips like how soil consistency can change how much you need to water it will be what determines whether your tree will thrive.

Husband and wife tree care experts Jamie and Becky Thomas, co-owners and operators of Spring Grove Nursery in Mazon tell from start to finish how to grow healthy trees.

Selecting a tree

A tree's success begins at selection. Becky says choosing a tree from a locally source, one that was started in the same climate as where it will be planted, will help ensure it's adaptability and reduce the amount of stress the tree will need to bear.

"The quality is also a plus factor in buying a tree," Becky added. "If you are getting a tree from a good quality nursery that abides by professional nursery standards, you will be starting off right."

She explained that the gamble you take with "big box store" tree purchases is that the majority of them receive their product from south western states, which means the fragile young trees are raised in drastically different environments than the Midwest's. When planted here, these imported trees are more susceptible to long-term shock damage.

"Buying local is always best when it comes to trees, it gives opportunity for larger and more mature growing trees," Jamie said.

Also, though they both agreed that it is ok to go with a burlap balled or potted trees, there are a few things to watch for when picking the right one for your outdoor space.

When it comes to balled and burlaped trees, the thing to look out for is a "busted up root ball" that could lead to root damage and hinder your tree's future prosperity.

For container started trees, Jamie said to gently lift the tree from the pot to inspect the direction of the growing roots.

"If the tree has been in that container for anywhere near a year's time, it will cause the roots to circle around the soil," Jamie said. "Roots are supposed to grow out and not around, this will make the tree less productive."


The next step toward your tree growing success is proper planting.

Although people argue about the best time for planting, Becky and Jamie said choosing a season to plant all depends on how attentive you can be in caring for the sapling.

You can successfully plant a tree anytime the ground is not frozen, but there are a few things worth considering beforehand.

"If you know that you are going to be away on vacation for an extended period of time or not around the house much because of summer activities, you may not want to plant a tree around then," Becky said.

She added that spring or fall planting may be the easiest, since both seasons generally offer more natural rainfall than what occurs locally during the summer months.

After choosing when to plant, the next thing to account for is the size of the hole that the tree's roots are to call home.

"The most common mistake made is planting the tree too deep," Becky emphasized.

If planting a container tree, Becky said all you need to do is to remove it from the plastic pot. For nursery bought burlaped trees, just leave the bio-degradable wire basket and wrappings on, making sure to remove the twine and cut the top off the burlap bag to expose the top of the root ball.

How wide you dig the hole for the tree is not necessarily a factor for growth assurance, but that how deep the hole is dug can be deal breaker for survival.

"You want to plant the tree so that the top of the root ball is about one inch above the surrounding ground level," Jamie pointed out. "Holes are suggested to be dug roughly about twice as big as the size of the root ball in width, because roots grow outward reaching for water and not down reaching for rock."


When it comes to taking care of your newly planted tree, the most critical duty is making sure it is adequately watered each and every week for the first one to two years of being in the ground.

"When you have a newly planted tree it is already under natural stress, making sure that the tree is in a non-stress watering situation will result in a healthier and more adaptive tree," Becky explained.

When a tree is under extra stress it is more susceptible to insects moving in and causing irreperable damage.

"Bugs can zero in on a weak tree and attack it," Becky said.

Jamie recommended that new trees get at least 1 inch of rainfall per week, but that it can be substituted with five gallons of tap water when Mother Nature isn't cooperating.

"The best way is to have your hose set to a trickle near the base of your tree, watering very slowly for a long period of time," Jamie suggested. "This way the water is slowly soaking into the soil and making it down to the roots rather than running off and being lost to the grass."

Over watering can be just as problematic as under watering. For example, Becky said that "if you have clay soil the water is more likely to sit around the root ball causing root rot and other issues, so you may have to give that tree a little bit less water at a time, and if you have sandy soil like in the Braidwood area, the water seeps away faster than the roots can absorb it so that tree may require a bit more."

Make sure to grab a copy of this week's edition of the Braidwood Journal, or subscribe on-line at, to finish reading the remainder of this article.

Illinois Central Sch Buss

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