Plant a Tree for California Arbor Day

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National Arbor Day – a day set aside just for tree planting – is celebrated nationally on the last Friday in April, but many states observe Arbor Day on dates according to their best tree-planting times.

In California, Arbor Day is often celebrated on March 7, which is also the birthdate of pioneering Santa Rosa horticulturalist Luther Burbank.

Purchasing a healthy, vigorous tree is the first step to a successful planting. Choose a tree that has branching and foliage on about 2/3 of its total height. This will help distribute stress from wind along its trunk. Large roots should not be exposed above the soil. This usually indicates severely kinked or circling roots that can eventually girdle (strangle) the tree, weakening or killing it in time.

The planting hole should be only as deep as the root ball and twice as wide. A deeper hole might cause the tree to settle too deeply, possibly causing crown rot. If the sides and bottom of the hole are glazed (shiny and smooth), roughen them with a shovel so the roots can penetrate into the surrounding soil easily. Prune any dead, broken or twisted roots. Roots matted at the bottom or circling around the root ball should be removed or straightened. Amend the backfill soil with 50% Planting Mix or other organic amendment if your soil is clay-like or sandy.
If wind, hot sun or aesthetics are not factors, position your tree so that the majority of the branches are facing away from the afternoon sun. This will help the tree produce more foliage on the “barer side”. If hot sun is an issue, position the tree so that the bud union (the crook) on a grafted tree is facing away from the afternoon sun (it can burn!). If wind is a factor, position the tree so that the majority of branches face the oncoming wind. Once the position has been determined, backfill ½ of the soil, making sure there is good contact with the roots, and water. Fill the hole with the second ½ and water again. Mulch around the tree (leaving the crown uncovered) with fine or micro bark to reduce evaporation and subdue weeds.

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