A Tree Grows in Richmond

Posted by & filed under Home Ownership.

Yesterday, the City of Richmond held an Earth Day celebration down at the old Piano Factory on 1st st. There were a bunch of booths about varying conservation-related topics. It really could have been called “Liberal Day.” There was lots of great information, some neat demonstrations (such as the one by Safari Steve from Silly Safari Station, who was both silly and entertaining) and giveaways.

We received a flying-disc (“F***bee”) made entirely from recycled plastic, two fluorescent bulbs (60W equivalent and 75W equivalent), an assortment of reading material about sustainable living, hiking in Richmond, and my personal favorite: a free flowering Dogwood from the Arbor Day Foundation.

Dogwoods happen to be my favorite tree. They look absolutely beautiful in the springtime. The one we got, I have no idea how old it is, but it’s about 2.5 feet (almost 1m) tall. It seems pretty healthy. The arbor day people gave us a little brochure on tree-planting, which was very useful considering I’ve never done it before. If you’re interested, here’s the digest version on how to do it:

  1. Remove any packaging from your sapling and let it soak in a bucket of water for 3 to 6 hours. This helps to loosen up the root structure. No need to agitate it or anything, just let it soak.
  2. When ready to plant, find a location that has both good soil and room for the tree to grow. The particular location I picked was 10 feet from the property-line fence and 10 feet from our garage. Dogwoods aren’t particularly big trees so I thought this would be ample room.
  3. When you’ve sited your plant location, mark a radius of 1.5′ out from that point, and turn all the soil. The tree needs to be able to not compete with grass and other weeds. I completely removed the sod and threw it in our compost heap.
  4. Determine how deep the sapling was planted previously – If you look at the trunk, there’s probably a visible line of discoloration. That was my guess as to the depth. It looked reasonable.
  5. Dig the hole deep enough in the center so that the tree can be COMFORTABLY (i.e. “not crammed”) into that hole. Mine was about 1.5 feet down, and 1 foot in diameter. The roots should have ample room in both width AND depth. (Note: You don’t need to dig out the whole area where you turned the soil — just enough for the tree can fit comfortably)
  6. Hold the sapling in mid-air so that the bottom of the root structure touches the bottom of the hole, and use your other hand to gently pull some of the excavated soil back into that hole. You want the sapling to stand up as straight as possible. You also may want to use work gloves, unless you really like getting dirt under your fingernails. Once you get enough soil in the hole that the tree can stand up on its own (a few inches deep should be enough), you can let go of the tree.
  7. Fill in the rest of the hole as best as you can with whatever soil you have available, then water it immediately. I used the remaining water in the buket where I soaked the sapling.
  8. OPTIONAL: apply mulch to the area where you turned the soil. Don’t let the mulch actually touch the tree (I’m not sure why, but that’s what the brochure said), but apply it generously. This will both prevent competing plants, help the tree retain moisture, and a number of other things. I used some compost from our compost heap.
  9. If you have a dry weather period, you should water the tree regularly. This is only necessary during its first year. After that it should do well on its own.

The Arbor Day Foundation is currently giving away 10 trees of your choice if you join the ADF. There’s a $10 donation to join, but considering that you’re getting 10 tree saplings out of it, I’d say that’s a good idea! We would do it if we had somewhere to plant them all, but sadly our yard isn’t big enough. 🙁