New tree? Small is best
Do you own our magazine, Trees? Some of our best
work on tree planting is there. (It's not
here on the site. Yet.). Here's an
eye-opener from that magazine from the article Starting
Small, to help you foresee how much time it takes a tree to
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Tree growth related to planting size: David beats Goliath
Consider a one-inch linden tree 7 feet tall and a four-inch
linden tree 12 feet tall, both planted carefully (following our tree planting
step-by-step in Oaks got flare) today into the same
Tend each one well until it resumes normal growth. Water it
faithfully throughout all its establishment years to keep the root
zone moist but not soggy.
Here's how those two will increase in size:
||End of this year
|1" dia. trunk
|4" dia. trunk
The smaller tree: In one year the one-inch tree
resumes near-normal branch growth and adds a foot to its height and
canopy radius. After year two we can see it's going to continue at
this pace, so we say it's established.
The big guy: Looks impressive right away but
labors that year just to keep a too-large top going with a
too-small root system. It grows only about an inch.
In 4 years, a matched set: After 4 years the
smaller tree is just a bit shorter than the one that started
larger. However, it probably looks
bigger for being healthier and fuller.
Meanwhile, the tree that was four inches in trunk diameter and
12' tall at planting has added only about six inches by the time it
gets into its 4th year. It will not have an appreciable growth
until that time. Then, it adds six inches in year four, and
increases that rate to ten inches the next year. By the beginning
of its seventh year it will be growing at one foot per year --
that's established at the lower end of its species norm.
When a tree reaches
and sustains its species normal growth rate, we say it has
established. That means the gardener can at last put away the
sprinkler that's been dedicated to keeping its root zone moist.
This river birch was 2" caliper at planting. Here we're
using the unwrapped burlap as a sling to lower it into its hole.
(For the complete planting process, see Oaks got
Its root ball looked big and certainly was a beast to move
around but it contained only about 25% of the roots the tree had
before it was dug for sale. It took a little more than 3 years for
the tree to grow enough new root to fully support itself. Then it
took off and began growing like a champ. At ten years, it had
doubled in size.
Good health, looks
Both trees in our chart begin their seventh year even up at 14'
tall. However, the tree that was smaller to begin with gains ground
for at least a few more years. It has grown and will continue to
grow more each year than its partner because it is healthier, with
a wider, more self-sufficient root system and more starch reserves
stored away to help it through rough times. It was less stressed by
its initial uprooting (when it was balled and burlapped or
containerized for sale) and every year after was less prone than
its partner to insect or disease damage.
Right: Plant sizes can be deceiving and the
fastest growing species are often the biggest. So look into mature
size and growth rate before you decide what to plant. The little
river birch (Betula nigra) you see us planting
above doubled in size in 10 years, will be as large as the birches
at right in 15 years, and still be only half grown. It's a much
bigger tree than its little cousins, the paper birches.
You can see why a river birch often outgrows its gardener's
expectations. In What's
Coming Up 23, see what we recommended and the owner did to
avoid losing the over-achiever, near right, once it reached its
site's limits. Photo ©2008 C. Gibbs
yet: The articles in our magazine Trees are not
yet converted and posted on GardenAtoZ.com. We have so much to post
that we set to the end of the line those articles that are already
available in other media.
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made it possible to post this and other tree planting