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Memorial Day is this Monday.  It is the special day set aside to remember American war dead.  Certainly, this is a worthwhile way to spend a few minutes on a day made to remember.  Nevertheless, too many American families live with the loss of a beloved family member every day.

Nothing eases the hurt.  If you know someone who is suffering through this kind of loss, give him or her a special gift of life.  A tree.  Any kind of tree will do.  Choose an oak, for the day it will tower and spread sturdy branches for rope swings; or an attractive flowering tree, a cherry or a dogwood, for its beauty; or an evergreen for its constancy and dependability.

Show those who have lost loves that they can plant a small thing and watch it grow, in memory of...   


--- Anne K. Moore May 22, 2009 ---
Photos by Anne K Moore ---

1)    Call the nationwide ''Call Before You Dig'' number, 811, to have your underground utilities marked before you dig.  Simple digging jobs can damage underground utility lines.  If you cut a line or disrupt service, you could be fined.  So call to get your lines marked for free at least 48 hours before you plant your tree.  It's the law in most states.

2)    Water the tree in its container until the soil is moistened all the way through the root ball.  If it is a bare root specimen, set it in a bucket of water while you dig the hole.

3)    Choose a site that corresponds with the sun and shade requirements of the tree.  Make sure you are not planting it under overhead power lines.  This can lead to disfiguring pruning in the coming years.  Almost all trees also need a site that is well drained.  Avoid any low area where water might stand.

4)    Now that you know where your underground water, electric, and cable TV lines are located, it's almost safe to dig.  Check out where your sprinkler system heads are located to get an idea of where those underground lines might be.  If you don't have a clue, dig very carefully.  I have been known to open up a PVC pipe without a whole lot of force.

5)    Now you can dig.  To keep from ruining the surrounding lawn or border, lay out a tarp and toss the excavated dirt on it.  An old shower curtain works well as a tarp, too.  This makes it easier to backfill the hole once the tree is in the ground. 

6)    Only dig the hole as deep as the tree is growing in the pot.  Placing the plant too deep is one of the biggest reasons for the death of a tree (or any other garden plant for that matter).  Make the hole twice as wide as the pot.

7)    If the tree is potted, massage the roots to loosen them around the sides and bottom and at the top edges where they tend to tangle tightly.  If you thought you had watered the pot well but half of the root ball is dry, it probably is planted in peat.  In this case, either soak the root ball in a tub of water or take a hose and use water to get rid of the dry material.  This also loosens up the roots.  Be sure to get it in the ground immediately after doing this procedure.  The roots cannot be exposed to dry air for long.

8)    If the tree is bare-root, check for broken roots and trim off any pieces at the break.  Make a clean cut with a sharp knife or pruner.  Get it in the ground right away.

9)    Position the tree in the hole.  Look at it from all sides and decide which way to face it.  Plant it no deeper than it was growing in the pot; most trees have a slight flare as they go into the ground.  Look for this flare on the bare-root tree.  There probably is a soil line stain on the bare root tree, too. 

10) If the roots are exposed, gently spread them in the hole and backfill soil under and around them with your hands.  Once you have the roots well filled in, then you can shovel in the rest of the soil.

11) It used to be recommended that the soil be enriched before it was backfilled around the tree.  This isn't the accepted practice anymore.  It has been determined that a tree will send roots out into the native soil quicker as long as the soil right around the roots is the same.  If the soil has been enhanced, the roots tend to stay in that area too long, and start to circle, as if they were still in a pot.  Just break up any clods as you fill in the hole.

12) Build up a small wall of dirt in a circle around the planting hole to hold water.  Water the tree in the hole thoroughly.  This will settle the soil around the roots so that there are no drying air pockets left behind.  Keep watering the tree at least every other day if there isn't sufficient rainfall.  Water it deeply so that water reaches the bottom roots, not just the top.  If the ground around the roots stays wet, cut back on your watering schedule.

13) If the tree won't stand by itself, you can stake it.  It should not be staked for more than 6 months however.  The only way the trunk will strengthen is by moving with the wind.  Remove the stakes as soon as the roots stabilize it. 

14) Mulch the top of the root area, keeping the mulch away from the trunk.  Mulch will help to keep down weeds and keep the soil cool and moist.

Give a living gift.  Watch it grow.

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Photographs courtesy of Suntory Flowers

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