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Fall is for planting trees

Destruction in nature often brings forth rebirth and renewed vigor.   The devastation of the April 27th tornados and other severe storm events we endured this year provides us the opportunity to look years into the future.  It’s a fact that many areas of Madison County and Alabama will need to replant thousands of trees in the next few years.

We have an opportunity to shape the vision that future generations will see.

Avoid:

-Planting trees under power lines.  It is often difficult to imagine the mature size of a tree.  Learn to see years in the future by finding and observing a mature tree(s) you are considering.   It is almost beyond comprehension that a stick 1 1/2” wide and 5′ tall can grow to be 50 -70 feet tall and have branches extending those same distances in width in 20 -30 years.

-Planting too close to a house or the power lines leaves an expensive legacy.   Millions of dollars each year, every year, are spent by utility customers pruning trees planted too close to power lines.  Remember this suggestion:  Do not plant a tree within 20 feet of the power lines. A tree that matures at 40 feet or higher should be planted even farther away from the lines.

Trees are very thirsty and have really big feet.  Let’s respect the streets and sidewalks this planting season as well.  Everyone loves a tree-lined boulevard.  They are breathtaking.  They are also expensive to maintain.  Trees need lots of room for root.  The roots of growing and mature trees are constantly mining the soil for minerals and water.  The first eight feet around a mature tree contain massive roots that taper down to the pipeline roots.  In our heavy soils, roots are often in the top ten inches of soil and can extend three to five times the diameter of the outer branch spread.

Tree roots will win.  Roots expand in diameter as well as length every year.  They exert a superhuman amount of pressure against anything they are under or near–sidewalks, streets, driveways or home foundations.  The larger the tree, the larger the root system it will have.

A rule of thumb is for each inch of diameter for a tree at its mature size, allow two feet of soil space. (Alabama Cooperative Extension System Publication ANR-0814).

For planning purposes in terms of a square, such as a front lawn, a 24′ x 24′ area would be needed for a 12” diameter tree (measured at maturity).  Many trees achieve 24-30” in diameter at maturity so plan appropriately or call a certified arborist or licensed landscape designer to help you avoid costly mistakes.

Planning ahead can save you and your community thousands of future dollars.  Think of your new trees as an investment with the potential to reward you and others for many years to come.  Over the next few weeks, we will be reviewing planning, selection, planting and maintenance.
McBride is the city of Madison Volunteer Arborist for the Beautification and Tree Board.

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