published Saturday, November 9th, 2013

Tips for top trees: Greater Chattanooga area pros name their favorite trees to plant now


Rich color highlights Forest Hill Cemetery at the foot of Lookout Mountain in St. Elmo in this file photo.
Rich color highlights Forest Hill Cemetery at the foot of Lookout Mountain in St. Elmo in this file photo.
Photo by Robin Rudd /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Tree Planting 101

1. Dig a hole as deep as the tree's root ball and twice as wide.

2. Mix organic matter, such as spagnum peat moss or soil conditioner, with the excavated soil.

3. Set the tree into the hole, placing the top of the root ball a couple inches higher than the ground. If the tree has been container-grown and roots are matted, use a pocketknife or other tool to loosen the roots.

4. Shovel half the amended backfill into the hole until the tree can stand upright on its own. Step away and make sure it is straight and that the best side faces forward. Make any adjustments needed, then shovel in the remaining backfill. While filling, stop occasionally to pack the soil down with your foot

5. Use your hands to shape loose soil into a circular mound around the tree. This helps pool water so that it trickles down to the roots.

6. When planted, water thoroughly, allowing the hose to slowly drip at the tree's base for at least an hour. For the first few weeks, new trees need several soakings.

7. Finish with 2 to 4 inches of mulch to keep moisture in.

Source: Southern Living

How ironic is it that the season when falling leaves cause homeowners extra yard work is also the best time to plant more trees?

"November is a good month to plant trees because it's cooler, and there is typically more moisture in the ground by November. Roots are going to stay warm because the earth is still holding warmth," says UT Extension Agent Tom Stebbins.

Trees planted in November have all winter to get their roots down and established, he explains, as opposed to trees planted in March and April, which run the risk of summer drought that can prevent roots from getting a good foothold in the soil.

Several area gardening professionals were asked to give their top picks in categories of best trees for fruit, fall color and shade, trees to put in the ground now.

The pros suggested homeowners make note of three things before planting any new tree in their yards:

• What are the dimensions of the space you want to fill?

• How high are the power lines above it?

• How far away are the closest underground utility lines or field lines from a septic tank?

Jot these facts down, and bring them to the gardening center for better assistance.

• SUE HENLEY, Hamilton County Master Gardener for 14 years.

Fruit: I don't personally grow fruit trees, but I know that there is an apple tree, Liberty, that is a good, resistant variety and does not need much spraying. It will grow in most areas in all kinds of soil in zones 5-8 (Chattanooga is zone 7) and grows well in full sun. It will grow to a height of 25 feet. These apples are a pretty red and are good for eating fresh or cooking. Apple trees will need two or three more varieties for good pollination.

Fall color: I believe it should be a type of maple because, in my opinion, they are king of the hill when it comes to fall color. Sugar maple's reddish-orange leaves, as well as some with yellow leaves, are standouts. They need to be planted in well-drained soil and in full-to-partial sun. They can grow to a height of 80 feet with a spread of 60 feet. I couldn't leave out the red maple --Red Sunset or Autumn Blaze. Requirements are the same for the sugar maple.

My other choice would be the American sweetgum. It will grow 60 to 70 feet with a spread of 60 feet. Colors of red, purple, yellow and orange can all be on the same tree. Just be sure to get the fruitless, they are less messy.

Shade: My choice for shade tree is the ginkgo biloba, aka Maidenhair Tree. It also has beautiful fall foliage as well. Just be sure you get the male variety only. It is a good tree for city planting and is free of most disease and insect pests. It will grow in full sun and almost any type of soil except wet. It's good for zones 3-9 and can grow 70 to 100 feet tall. Some great choices: Autumn Gold, Princeton Sentry and Saratoga.

• LLOYD REAVIS, manager, Varnell Nursery in Cleveland, Tenn.

Fruit: If you are looking for a hardy fruit tree, we've had good success with Winesap and Arkansas Black [apple trees] and, of course, Granny Smith is always a good one, too.

Fall color: As far as color and shade, the October Glory or Autumn Blaze maple. October Glory turns a yellowish-orange and eventually ends up red. Autumn Blaze starts pink and ends up fire-engine red. It's the brightest of them all.

Shade: A good shade tree would be either one of those maples. They are fast-growing, have a big, fat leaf and a wide canopy.

• DONALD COKER, manager, Deep Springs Nurseries in Dalton,Ga.

Fruit: A Gala apple is a good tree. They're usually easy to take care of. We try to look around at the orchards in Ellijay, Ga., and Cleveland, Tenn., see what they're doing, what's successful, and we grow ours. Most all of the apple [trees] are good.

Fall color: Japanese maple. It's not going to be the biggest -- it's more of an ornamental tree -- but it usually has the best color. If you want a red maple: October Glory.

Shade tree: October Glory, that's what most people are wanting.

• BRAD ROBERTSON, owner, Burkhart Farms in Rock Spring, Ga.

Fruit: Figs. Brown Turkey is the most cold-hardy.

Fall color: There's a new maple that's a National Arboretum introduction called Sun Valley. It's a red maple. It's a small one -- 21 feet high by 12 feet wide after 12 years -- but it has a gorgeous, fiery orange color. If you've got a small yard, it's a nice size.

Shade: Probably some of the new elms, like a Valley Forge or Prospector elm. They are drought-tolerant.

Contact Susan Pierce at spierce@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6284.

about Susan Pierce...

Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...

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