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Get Ready for Spring Tree Planting

Start with good-quality planting stock.

As people look past spring flooding, it’s time to start thinking about planting trees. Trees provide a multitude of benefits, such as shade, protection from the wind and providing habitat for many species of wildlife.

The actual planting of a tree can be as simple or as complex as you like. Nevertheless, there are a few important tips to keep in mind, according to Joe Zeleznik, North Dakota State University Extension Service forester.

“Location, location, location,” Zeleznik says. “The site where the tree will be planted should be free of obstructions and large enough to accept a tree. Two of the most common mistakes in tree planting are placing the tree too close to overhead power lines or too close to a building. Remember, the little tree that you plant today will become the large tree that can cause problems 20 or more years from now.”

If you are planting in an area with underground utilities, make sure that all of them have been located prior to digging by calling North Dakota One Call at (800) 795-0555.

Start with good-quality planting stock. This means that the tree species you choose is adapted to this region of the country and the plant is not damaged or diseased.

“The majority of failed tree plantings can be traced back to the tree being planted too deeply,” Zeleznik says. “A common misconception is that trees should be planted deep to keep them wind firm. Nothing could be further from the truth. Trees that are planted at the proper depth, once they become established, are more wind firm than those planted too deeply. These trees also will not have the health problems that deep-planted trees typically suffer.”

Trees should be planted so that the root flare (zone where the stem transitions to roots) is at the ground line or even slightly higher.

If the tree is balled and burlapped or in a container, make sure that the wire, burlap, basket or other material is removed before placing the tree in the planting hole. If left on the root ball, these items can cause health issues and structural problems in the future. If the tree is large, it may require staking for one or two years.

“Remember to use straps to cradle the stem,” Zeleznik says. “Do not use wire or twine that can choke the tree by cutting off water and nutrient flow in the stem. Water the tree as needed, which usually is once every 10 days if there has been no rain. Overwatering trees is just as harmful as underwatering them.”

More information on tree planting, care, pest management and those species adapted to North Dakota conditions can be found in the NDSU Extension Service publication “Trees and Shrubs for Northern Great Plains Landscapes.” This 272-page book contains detailed descriptions and full-color photographs of 66 tree species, 45 deciduous trees, 21 conifers and 38 shrub species that are generally adapted to urban growing conditions in North Dakota. To order a copy and find more information on trees and shrubs, go to

“Enjoy planting trees this spring,” Zeleznik says. “More importantly, do it right and enjoy the benefits for years to come.”

For more information on tree planting and care, contact Zeleznik at (701) 231-8143 or

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Joe Zeleznik, (701) 231-8143,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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