Talking Trees with Davey Tree

Top Tree Planting Tips - Prepare for Arbor Day!

April 06, 2023 The Davey Tree Expert Company Season 3 Episode 14
Top Tree Planting Tips - Prepare for Arbor Day!
Talking Trees with Davey Tree
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Talking Trees with Davey Tree
Top Tree Planting Tips - Prepare for Arbor Day!
Apr 06, 2023 Season 3 Episode 14
The Davey Tree Expert Company

Jay Judd from Davey’s East Denver office talks about spring planting, the challenges in the Denver region and his favorite parts of the job.  

In this episode we cover:  

  • What Jay has to do differently in the Denver region (0:35) 
  • How Jay deals with the clay soil of the region (2:20) 
  • The importance of mulch and watering your trees (3:15) 
  • Deciding what size tree to plant (5:35) 
  • Jay’s favorite trees to plant in Denver (6:18) 
  • Should you use stakes with your trees? (8:35)  
  • The biggest mistakes homeowners make when planting their own trees (9:44) 
  • The importance of depth when planting (10:38) 
  • When to fertalize a newly planted tree (13:00) 
  • The tree species being brought into Denver (14:14) 
  • The best parts of Jay’s job (17:55) 

To find your local Davey office, check out our find a local office page to search by zip code.  

To learn more about planting trees at the correct depth, read our blog, In Too Deep? 

To learn more about the benefits of tree planting, read our blog, The Endless Ways Planting a Tree Can Benefit You

To learn more about planting the right tree in the right place, read our blog, What Plant Hardiness Zone Am I In?  

Connect with Davey Tree on social media:
Twitter: @DaveyTree
Facebook: @DaveyTree
Instagram: @daveytree
YouTube: The Davey Tree Expert Company
LinkedIn: The Davey Tree Expert Company 
 

Connect with Doug Oster at www.dougoster.com

 
Have topics you'd like us to cover on the podcast? Email us at podcasts@davey.com. We want to hear from you!    

Show Notes Transcript

Jay Judd from Davey’s East Denver office talks about spring planting, the challenges in the Denver region and his favorite parts of the job.  

In this episode we cover:  

  • What Jay has to do differently in the Denver region (0:35) 
  • How Jay deals with the clay soil of the region (2:20) 
  • The importance of mulch and watering your trees (3:15) 
  • Deciding what size tree to plant (5:35) 
  • Jay’s favorite trees to plant in Denver (6:18) 
  • Should you use stakes with your trees? (8:35)  
  • The biggest mistakes homeowners make when planting their own trees (9:44) 
  • The importance of depth when planting (10:38) 
  • When to fertalize a newly planted tree (13:00) 
  • The tree species being brought into Denver (14:14) 
  • The best parts of Jay’s job (17:55) 

To find your local Davey office, check out our find a local office page to search by zip code.  

To learn more about planting trees at the correct depth, read our blog, In Too Deep? 

To learn more about the benefits of tree planting, read our blog, The Endless Ways Planting a Tree Can Benefit You

To learn more about planting the right tree in the right place, read our blog, What Plant Hardiness Zone Am I In?  

Connect with Davey Tree on social media:
Twitter: @DaveyTree
Facebook: @DaveyTree
Instagram: @daveytree
YouTube: The Davey Tree Expert Company
LinkedIn: The Davey Tree Expert Company 
 

Connect with Doug Oster at www.dougoster.com

 
Have topics you'd like us to cover on the podcast? Email us at podcasts@davey.com. We want to hear from you!    

[music]

Doug Oster: Welcome to the Davey Tree Expert Company's podcast, Talking Trees. I'm your host, Doug Oster. Each week, our expert arborist, share advice on seasonal tree care, how to make your trees thrive, arborist's favorite trees, and much, much more. Tune in every Thursday to learn more, because here at the Talking Trees podcast, we know trees are the answer.

I'm joined again this week by Jay Judd, he's a district manager for the East Denver office of the Davey Tree Expert Company. Today we're talking all about early tree planting. Jay, is there something special or different that you guys do out in the Colorado Denver area that we wouldn't do here in the east?

Jay Judd: Yes. Trees out here don't belong here. They have a harder time at taking and living and surviving. In certain areas in the Denver Front Range, we're dealing with a lot of clay, but you need to remember, we're very dry here too. When we plant a tree, a homeowner will see the soil on top looking very dry and add more and more and more water, essentially drowning the tree out there. They're adding a ton of water to a non-draining pot. That seems to be a constant issue that we have with the trees out here in Denver, trying to plant them with clients.

We're also looking at a climate that's super brutal on these young twigs, basically, two-and-a-half inch diameter trees, we got a frost that comes in. It really hammers them. I think the biggest issue that we see though, is the sun scalding. We're a mile closer to the sun than most of the country. What we ended up doing is frying our trees when we plant them in these right of ways, they get that radiant heat coming off the pavement, if you've got a brick wall right there. You're going from a temperature of 20 degrees at night by nine in the morning, it could be 60 degrees in that little microclimate. Proper planting locations, proper species, proper watering, super important here.

Doug: With all that clay soil, what are you doing? Are you looking for a better spot or are you improving the spot where it has to go or both?

Jay: Yes, good question. We're limited to improving the location. The whole yard is probably going to be the same. Digging your hole much wider than it needs to be, which is common practice in planting, but doing some backfill that's going to allow the soil to stay moist, without drowning the tree. You're able to keep that nice, moist, spongy soil 2, 3, 4 feet around the root ball rather than having a shinned-off hole that's three inches away from your root ball that's just soaking in water.

Doug: Talk about how you've got to educate your clients when it comes to watering, and what role does mulch play in this?

Jay: Yes, that's a great question. The mulch is going to be super important for holding that moisture in. I don't think that's any different here than in other parts of the country. Getting a good mulch layer, making sure it's away from the trunk. We don't want to have a bunch of moisture right there at the root flare, but two to three feet out from that trunk, covering it with mulch, two or three inches away from the trunk to hold the moisture in. That also helps prevent some of the weed whacker blight we see or lawnmower blight from crashing into that. It's got a dual purpose.

With watering, we use a lot of probes. Constantly, am suggesting to clients to use a visual soil probe, which are generally pretty cheap on Amazon. A digital probe might not be accurate. You're basically taking a soil sample, a core sample of the soil on that area because it's 18 inches down, two feet down that we're really worried about, not what's happening right on the surface. Getting a good visual, you could do that with a stick even and making sure it's not too sloppy down below the surface a couple of feet.

Then every location is going to be a little bit different for watering. Monitoring it the first few weeks. Gator bags help out with making sure that you're getting proper watering. The biggest issue there is if it's letting too little water come down, it may be evaporating before it gets through that mulch layer.

Doug: Talk about those gator bags. What is that?

Jay: Yes. This is a bag that's going to hang off the tree. It basically attaches to the lowest limbs. You fill the bag up with water once a week, and it's slowly going to leach out of small holes, a small amount of water, so you're not over-watering it and blasting it all in one shot. They're useful, but the right location. They need the right location.

Doug: When you're thinking about planting trees this time of the year, would you prefer it be a bigger tree, a smaller tree, does it matter? Is that a client choice or how do you make that decision?

Jay: Yes, that's another good question. Out here, we like the two to two-and-a-half-inch range. Too large of a tree has a hard time establishing. Too small of a tree, you start looking at the climate issues. If you have a little one-inch twig there, it's probably not going to do too good when you're looking at these extreme temperature changes that we're seeing later in that first year of planting.

Doug: What are some of the trees that you love to plant there that can take this terrible? It's not like you're planting on the moon for god's sake.

Jay: Yes. Ash were once a good planter. They did good in the climate, but we've got emerald ash borer here, which we've discussed before. They've started bringing in Kentucky coffee trees, which can be a messy tree and doesn't look great at first. They seem to be doing pretty good with the climate. A pretty popular favorite is going to be an autumn blaze maple for a good shade tree. We do plant crab apples around here. That's a good ornamental that does good along with the hawthorn. We do deal with a lot of fireblight so that could be an issue in the future.

Unfortunately, there's no great tree to plant that's not going to eventually have a problem with an insect or a disease at some point. Because of our soil in many areas, chlorosis, which is basically a mineral deficiency, causing the leaves to turn white or yellowish in the growing season. A lot of the maples do get that here. Oak scan as well. Planting up here at a mile above sea level, also known as the moon is pretty tricky to find the perfect species, but we try.

Doug: Jay, seriously, it sounds like it's a tough place to be an arborist.

Jay: It's a fun place to be an arborist because we learn a lot. There's a lot of issues out here. We get a chance to do our job and feel good about doing our job and offering stuff. There's never a time that we're discussing with a client something that they need, which they all need something, that we don't feel like we could stand by. The products can help this stuff, and the plant health care is super important in a place like Denver.

Doug: Let me ask you a couple more technical questions. Are you supposed to have a steak or stakes when you plant a tree or not or again, does it depend?

Jay: Yes. I think up here, we do have issues with winds and open areas. Yes, staking is good. I think the most common problem with staking and this is more when a homeowner is planting is nobody tells them or nobody is monitoring the tree to make sure they take them down. Leaving a steak, it's going to have two issues. One, if you imagine you've got a crutch that's holding the tree up for four or five years, those roots yes, they're developing to be able to uptake nutrients, but they're not developing to hold the tree up because that crutch is there.

It could do the tree a disservice by leaving it on too long. About a year is good. There's a big one to two years. The other big issue is when you're staking, you're putting straps around the trunk of the tree. When you forget about that now you've got basically a noose for the tree that's choking it off and it could cause big issues down the line.

Doug: What are the biggest mistakes that homeowners make when they plant their own tree?

Jay: Yes. Hole size. We discussed two times the size of the root ball. If they're planting a container, they don't break those roots up. If you leave that container root system, the way it was when it popped out, there's going to be girdling. Those roots are going to continue in the direction. You want to tease those a little bit before you put it in the hole. When it comes to burlapped and caged trees, not removing the cage on the sides and not removing the burlap and what essentially happens is the same, that just those roots spiral around and you don't have a good structural root system after it's established.

Doug: Then how about depth? I always hear arborists telling me, like, "We went to see this tree and people didn't understand what was wrong. We asked them who planted it. Then we looked at it and it's like two inches too deep."

Jay: Yes. Depth is an issue for sure. I think out here we see more of leaving the packaging material around, but absolutely depth, if you plant it too shallow, the root systems above ground in a place like here, those roots are going to get dried out really quick. You go too deep and you start bearing that root flare, which I was saying you want to keep the mulch away from. When you put it too deep and cover in soil, you're going to have the same issue as a big mulch bed over that root ball.

Doug: When you plant a tree, I'm assuming that you dig that hole the right size, but you have some way that you know that you only have to put that tree in the hole once. Where I think homeowner, they're putting it in, they're thinking-- then they're pulling it out. How do you measure to make sure it's right when you know what you're doing?

Jay: It's as basic as a shovel handle. We get the depth of the root ball with the shovel and lay another one down just so you get the grade height and then stick your shovel at that height. It's more measurement. I think if you're eyeballing it and trying to hope you're going to do good, then you probably are going to have to pull that back out. If it's a big root ball, good luck.

Doug: Yes, that's what I'm thinking, because if it is a big root ball, you only want to put it in that hole once.

Jay: That root ball will start breaking apart when you're moving it too much once it's out of the packaging. Now you have a whole another issue on your hands there where the roots may get damaged.

Doug: When you put it in the hole, that's the time that you're taking off the cage and the burlap or you're doing it before you put it in the hole?

Jay: Correct, after you put it in the hole. Yes, that's a good thing to point out. After you get it in the hole, that's going to keep that root ball packaged together during movement. You want to remove that cage, especially on the sides, and that burlap cut it off. A container is going to generally be light enough. You can take that off before you get it in the hole.

Doug: At what point are we fertilizing a new planted tree?

Jay: If you're using a regular fertilizer, you don't want to be throwing that in right away, that could burn the roots. A slow release, something like the fertilizer we use at Davy or for Green Pro, that's going to work good, just a little sprinkle in there. After that first year it's been in, you probably don't want to be doing an inject, so sticking a probe in and a high pressure fertilization or water could damage the roots and even blow whatever you've planted, depending on the side, out of the hole, but a slow release is safe. The concern there is going to be you don't want to be burning the roots on the new tree.

Doug: Let me get this right with the, what is it called? Arbor?

Jay: Arbor Green Pro.

Doug: Arbor Green Pro, is that a liquid, or is that a granular, or could it be both?

Jay: Could be both, yes. We're going to put it in the form of a granular when we're planting, we'll powder the hole. If you as a homeowner are getting the service, it's going to show up as a liquid.

Doug: Okay, I get it. Anything else on your list of trees? I want to pick your brain a little bit more about trees because like you said, they're bringing in species to try and grow in those conditions, which sounds difficult.

Jay: Yes, I think from what it looks like they're trying to bring in species that have a little thicker bark that can deal with these climate issues. I think that's where a Kentucky coffee tree, we do have Buckeyes that they're starting to plant. I've seen a few different newer species, like a new type of elm that I hadn't seen around before. Some of these trees we may have seen is more exotic in the past are starting to be more prominent, and that's due to-- Our climate's different just in the last five years. We've gotten a lot drier. We're looking at a new place than we were a decade ago. A lot of these trees that were brought in are having a hard time. When it comes to Evergreens, Colorado Blue Spruce, although it's got the name Colorado, it belongs at a higher elevation. We are bringing those in forever. Evergreens, Austrian Pines, scotch Pines, different varieties of the Blue Spruce, dependent on size.

Doug: Now, do you have any trouble with the Blue Spruce as far as fungal issues? Because in the East Blue Spruce are getting devastated by some kind of fungal issue?

Jay: We have the Ips beetle, and it's a major issue further north from Denver, Fort Collins, and that's a big problem. We've always had an issue with the Ips beetle, I think because of how hot and dry the trees are. You add a stressor, you start seeing more insects. They’ve just had a blowup of that. Honestly, that may not be an appropriate planting for that far up north.

Doug: I want to go back to the Kentucky coffee tree because that's a underused tree out here, but people that do plant it, and I work with one nursery that just loves Kentucky Coffee Tree. What do you like about it? Is it its toughness or do you like the way it looks?

Jay: I think when you put it in the ground, it looks like a stick for the first four years. It doesn't have a great curb appeal. Once it grows into itself though, they look good, they look full. The hardiness of them, I think it's the appeal. The pods are messy, but they have the expresso version, which doesn't have pods, so it's a podless version that I started seeing a few years ago. I think it's a good shade tree once it grows into itself.

Doug: Of course the buckeye tree out here, it grows easy and we've got basically two different species, one with a white conical flower and the other one with a red conical flower. When they bloom and they're mature, that's a beauty.

Jay: That's a great tree. Any of these flowering shade trees, which we don't have a lot in Colorado. Any of these larger flowering shade trees are always great to see. Primarily we're looking at pears and crab apples in the spring and that's about it. It's nice to see something up there. Like I said, these are a newer planting, we don't have a lot of mature ones out there yet. There are some, but not a lot yet.

Doug: Jay, before I let you go, talk a little bit about the best parts of your job. About these relationships with clients, and you touched on it a little bit, but tell me a little bit about the fun part of dealing with people.

Jay: Diagnosing and helping someone out with a tree concern, especially when we can get there early enough, it's pretty rewarding. We can't always help out with the issue, but more often than not, it's something that with the proper education. We can set up a program that usually starts with in-Denver fertilization and just watering and then mitigate a lot of these issues. Seeing the same clients year after year after year, you start to build a relationship. I take ownership over some of the trees and some of these properties, some of the larger commercial properties, I consider my trees. When people don't want to do stuff that's going to promote the health of their trees, they can get a little bit frustrating because you want what's best and you almost just want to go do it when you consider it your tree. Those relationships, especially year after year after year, visiting the same property, getting to know the property and the trust of the client knowing that you're their tree guy.

Doug: Well, Jay, I'm going to leave it right there. That's good stuff. Boy, my hat's off to you. That sounds like a tough climate to grow in, but I know you're doing a good job for all those people. Thanks again for spending some time with us and I'm sure we'll talk again soon. Thank you.

Jay: Thank you much, Doug. I appreciate you having me on again.

Doug: Well, every climate has its own set of challenges, doesn't it? Now, tune in every Thursday to the Talking Trees podcast from the Davey Tree Expert Company. I am your host, Doug Oster, and do me a favor, subscribe to the podcast so you'll never miss an episode and do not miss next week's show. It's the first of two parts with Davey's Turf Specialist Zane Rodden Bush, and we're doing a deep dive on getting the lawn in shape for summer. Hey, do you have an idea for a show or a comment? Send me an email to podcasts that's plural@davey.com. That's P-O-D-C-A-S-T-S@D-A-V-E-Y.com, getting lots of good ideas there. As always, we'd like to remind you on The Talking Trees Podcast, trees are the answer.

[00:20:29] [END OF AUDIO]