Suggestion On Small & Medium Size Trees To Replace Ice Storm Downed Trees!

We live near the largest landfill in western Oklahoma City and I continue to be shocked by the hundreds of truckloads of broken branches and brush I see headed there each day on all the disaster clean up trucks and trailers.  Many homes and businesses will need to plant new trees this year to help restore and grow the “green canopy” in our communities that was heavily damaged by the two devastating ice storms after Thanksgiving and Christmas.

In a previous column we suggested many good choices for large trees that grow to forty, fifty feet or taller for planting across central Oklahoma.  There are many good choices for small or “understory” trees that grow to 20 feet tall and medium trees that grow to forty or fifty feet at maturity.  Selecting the right tree for your yard depends on your soil type, distance to your home or other structures, purpose of the tree, whether for summer shade, fall color or sheer beauty and color like flowering or ornamental trees.  Visit with your local nurseryman to help select the right tree for your site conditions and what you are trying to achieve.  You can plant container grown or balled and burlapped trees most any time, including now, as long as the ground is not frozen.  Dig the planning hole two to three times larger in diameter as needed and half again as deep as needed.  Add about one third Canadian or Sphagnum peat to the backfill and plant the tree so the top of the soil ball is at ground level.  Then water in your new plantings and water deeply and regularly the first couple of years after planting.   Water is usually the main key to tree survival.   Mulching the top of the soil around your new tree with two to four inches of bark or natural hulls of some type will reduce watering requirements and help insulate the tree roots.

Some of the best medium size trees that will grow to twenty to forty or even fifty feet tall depending on soil conditions, watering and variety selection include Chinese Pistache; many varieties of Eastern Redbud, our state tree; Saucer Magnolia, Goldenrain tree, Western Soapberry, Live Oak, Osage Orange, River Birch, Japanese Black Pine, Virginia Pine, Chittamwood, and Japanese Pagoda trees.

There are a number of very good small trees that you can add to your property to achieve screening, a small shade effect or just to beautify your yard while reducing wind and helping clean the air and create fresh oxygen.  Consider spring flowering trees like ornamental crabapples, tree lilacs and purple leaf plums.   Summer flowering small trees include Crepemyrtle, smoke tree and Vitex (Butterfly Bush).  You can plant small trees that produce colorful berries or fruit like Serviceberry and deciduous Holly including Possumhaw and Winterberry.  Other good small trees include Amur Maple, Japanese Red Maple (in a protected, partially shaded area), Yaupon Holly, Foster Holly, Nellie R. Stevens Holly, and Washington Hawthorne.  These are just a partial list but include many tree species recommended by the Oklahoma State University Extension Service and Oklahoma nurserymen I respect.  With so much tree damage we are likely to have high demand for trees and shrubs this next spring, summer and fall.  We are likely to have tree shortages as the year progresses so you many want to decide on your tree selections and plant sooner before the supply gets really tight.  Remember that nurserymen can’t just snap their fingers and grow more trees.  Many of the trees you will be buying are two to five years old or even older on larger trees.  You will be buying trees started in 2010 to 2013 or even earlier depending on the size and species.  Nurseries are not immune to ice damage so their supplies and availability may have been impacted by the same ice storms that “pruned” your trees.  Thankfully the smaller trees at nurseries have less branch span and are usually less effected by ice storms than the large trees in your yard.

Select some new trees and shrubs and then have fun planting the shade, beauty and clean air that will shape the future of your home, neighborhood and our state.

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