Are you thinking about planting a tree by your old house? We share a few important things we considered before selecting our new tree…and one thing we forgot that you should not!
Planting a tree is a wonderful thing to do for the environment. It is a great gift to get someone! I received my tree on Mother’s Day from my husband and son. I’ve enjoyed seeing the pretty pink blooms of our American Redbud this spring. Now that it is fall I am looking forward to watching the leaves change color.
WHAT TO CONSIDER WHEN PLANTING A TREE
Planting a tree can sound simple but there are a few things you should be thinking about before you pick up that shovel. Use this simple list of things to consider when planting a tree before you get one for your old house!
THE TIME OF YEAR
Did you know that fall is actually a good time of year to plant a tree? I always thought you HAD to plant in the spring but that is not true. Although spring is an ideal time of year to plant a tree, fall is a close second with October being the first month in our region that organizations like Casey Trees will begin planting trees.
I’m no expert on this, but if you decide to plant a tree this fall make sure it is well before the first frost. That way the tree can take root. You also will need to water the tree daily or every other day in the first few weeks. Watering is most important for new trees in the first 1-3 years. Casey Trees recommends watering your tree weekly from early spring until the soil freezes in winter.
It’s a good idea to also add mulch around your tree. Casey Trees has a 3-3-3 rule (I love that it’s so easy to remember!). Add mulch in a 3 foot radius around the tree, no more than 3 inches deep, and keep 3 inches around the trunk clear.
Here is a photo of the trunk and mulch around our new tree that’s about a year old. It looks like we are not following the 3-3-3 rule so I’ll have to get my gardening gloves on this weekend and take care of that!
LOCATION AND OBSTRUCTIONS
One of the most important things to consider when planting a tree is the location of your utilities. In the Urban Tree Canopy Guidelines from the Prince George’s County Department of the Environment they list specific distances to keep in mind.
To give your new tree enough room for healthy growth and to avoid interference with utilities and structures, be sure to plant it:
- at least 3 feet from underground utilities, as marked by Miss Utility
- at least 10 feet from overhead utilities
- at least 15 feet from structures
- at least 3 feet from fences, walkways, driveways, decks, and patios
- at least 10 feet from the trunks of other large trees
- at least 7 feet from the stems of small trees and shrubs
If you are planting a tree in your front yard or near where utilities are running underground, you should contact your utility company. They will locate your underground utilities for you. In our case we contacted Miss Utility and they marked our underground utilities so we could be sure to keep 3 feet clear.
Trees are great for reducing heating and cooling demands for your house by providing shade during the summer and letting in sun when the leave fall during the winter (if you go with a deciduous tree, not an evergreen). Consider this when locating your tree and place them on the south or southwestern side of your home to reduce cooling costs.
Wind and water are also affected by trees. Evergreens make great wind blocks and provide year-round privacy. Trees can divert rainwater from impermeable surfaces and reduce rainwater runoff. They can also manage rainwater by absorbing it with their root system.
Our tree is an American Redbud (also known as an Eastern Redbud) which has beautiful pink blooms in the spring. We selected it because it thrives in the soil and climate in our region. It is also on the smaller end which we needed due to the location in our front yard and the recommended clearances from utilities.
Casey Trees has a great visual guide for trees that do well in our region, called the Tree Archive. Your local nursery will have that information as well, so give them a call before you start your search.
This is the one thing we did not do when we planted our tree and we totally REGRET it! We could have saved $150 with the rebate from the Prince George’s County Rain Check Program. That is $150/tree so if you plan to plant multiple trees make sure you get some money back. Casey Trees also has their own rebate program that serves our region so that is another option.
Washington DC and counties in Virginia have rebate programs too, so make sure to take a moment, if you are in the United States, and do a quick search for your own county. Save some money while you save the planet by planting a tree!