Thursday, June 3, 2010

Just a Couple Tree Huggers

Even though this story is a month old to us, it's never too late to hug er, plant a couple trees right? Well, that's exactly what Justin and I did the weekend after Earth Day this year (yes, I know about a month ago). I could say we planted them in celebration of Mother Earth, but that wouldn't be accurate because we planted them for purely selfish reasons: we want large lush trees in our backyard one day and I had a Home Depot Garden Club coupon to use (of course). And this coupon wasn't any old $10 off a $50 purchase—which we have scored many times in the past—oh no no no, this was a buy one tree get one tree free coupon. Yes, you read correctly, 2 trees for the price of one, who could go wrong with that? Not us! So, while out and about one day, we stopped at good 'ol HD and snatched up two of their largest trees in stock, one maple and one birch tree for (drum roll please) 100 smack-o-las. As we danced to our good fortune in the car on the way home, we talked strategy about where these big-daddies were going to go.

Unlike most other projects I tackle, I did not mock up the location of these guys, because moving them around the yard was a much faster way to get a sense of the space. We ended up choosing to plant them about 6 feet in from the back of our property, aligning them with the sides of our house and across from each other. We think they frame the yard nicely and dream of planting more friends around them in the fall. After determining the best spot for each tree, we were ready to start digging.

But before we started the actual tree-planting-process, the most important part of this project was making sure we did not hit any gas or electric lines when digging. To ensure we didn't, we called up the Illinois JULIE hotline (8-1-1) and submitted our request. JULIE is an extremely convenient resource for anyone planning any digging in their yard (trees, decks, additions, etc.). The hotline takes your information and contacts each utility company for you. Within three days later, our backyard was tagged and flagged. (JULIE was new to me for this project and when Justin told me he had to call Julie before we could plant the trees, I got all huffy and said, "Who's Julie!?" Now I know.)

Any who, back to the action. When planting a tree, the hole should be twice as wide as the ball and just as deep as the height of the ball.

Another important step (almost as important as JULIE), is straightening out the roots. As you can see, the roots of our tree molded to the container it had been sitting in for who knows how long and we needed to loosen these up so that they didn't continue to grow in a circle, but stretched out into the earth like arms, allowing the roots to grow out and suck up the nutrients in the native soil.

It's a little hard to see the ball here, but this is how it looked after we broke it up and shook the roots out a bit.

Next, we started filling the hole back up. To provide additional nutrients to our new babies, we mixed a bag of Miracle-Gro garden soil for trees and shrubs with the dirt we dug up. It is important to mix some sort of tree soil with the native soil so that the roots are fed and the transplanted tree isn't shocked by the new dirt environment.

We started by filling the hole only half full because we had to make sure the tree was straight from all directions. I won't stand for crooked trees in my yard!

Then, we stomped the dirt down, compressing it as much as we could to hold the tree in place...

...and topped it off with the rest of the dirt.

Once safely in the ground and straight up-and-down, we gave them a good dose of H2O and continued to water them every day for the next couple weeks. Trees soak up water at a slow rate, so no need to blast them with buckets of water, a slow stream will do the trick.

Since then, we've sat back and admired our work, secretly wishing we could fast forward five years and see how much bigger they'll be in the future.

Did anyone else tackle a planting project around Earth Day? There's no better time to give back to the earth than the present!

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