If you are looking for trees to plant in your yard, there are many things to consider. First, and most importantly, you want to be sure the species you choose will do well in the environment in which you want to plant it. The species you choose must be adapted to the type of soil, drainage, and shade conditions you provide for it if it is to survive. (Check out books on trees and shrubs which will provide you with this information.) Secondly, be sure the eventual size and spread of the tree will suit you several years down the road. Third, don’t plant too close to your home, consider the eventual size and spread of the tree and plan for it. A small tree will look just as good planted several yards away from your house as right next to it, and you will not have to cut it back (or down) in 5-10 years because it is blocking your view, hitting your house, or filling your gutters with leaves and seeds.

You can purchase very small trees as “bare root” stock, or larger ones that are in containers or balled in burlap. No matter what size you choose, treat these new friends with kindness and plant them correctly. There are many books that can help you with the do’s and don’ts of planting. The biggest problems occur when you plant the tree deeper than it has already been planted (if containerized or balled in burlap), not tamping in the soil around the roots so air pockets form and the feeder roots dry out and die, and filling in the planting hole with a soil mix that is not like that where the tree is planted. In other words, don’t fill the hole in with a “perfect” soil mix or peat moss because the roots will never grow out of the immediate space, and you will end up with a “pot bound” tree growing in your yard. Finally, never heap mulch around the trunk of the tree. Mulch holds moisture and will rot the trunk if it is left heaped next to it. (Yes, it is not done correctly on campus in most places! Professional landscapers love to heap mulch-and you pay for it.)

Finally, to stake or not stake your new tree. Many people think staking a newly planted sapling is important. New research indicates that you should not stake a tree. Apparently, natural stress increases the tendency of the tree to build up the proper amounts of lignin to support itself. (Lignin is a phenolic compound that serves to reinforce the walls of the cells of the supporting tissues in the trunk and branches of woody plants. It adds compressive strength and stiffness to the cell walls in which it is deposited.) If the tree is planted properly to begin with, it will not lean.

Now, go forth and plant!