Plan your urban landscaping in layers, with trees as the top layer, bushes and shrubs as the next layer, and finally perennials. All three will attract birds, bees, and butterflies. Most trees and shrubs need at least five hours of sunlight.
Most urban lots are too small for large trees. Choose a variety that in 20 to 30 years will still fit on an urban lot. Research the height and breadth of each tree before you buy. For example, willows will overwhelm a small yard in 5 years. A Colorado blue spruce will be too large in 20 years. Choose smaller ones such as columnar aspen, crab apple, hawthorn, or mountain ash. Or buy dwarf trees.
Be careful where you place the trees. You should be able to see and enjoy your trees from inside your house. Do not locate them next to your house.
When purchasing trees, make sure they thrive in our Zone 3 climate.
Fruit trees provide both beautiful spring blossoms and tasty organic food. First, check with your local market garden as to what varieties produce the best fruit and how long before they produce a good crop. Choose semi-dwarf or dwarf trees that grow up to no more than 15 feet tall. Short trees make for easier picking. Apple, crab apple, Pembina plum, and Evans cherry are excellent Zone 3 fruit trees.
To plant a tree, start by digging a hole 2-3 times the diameter of the root ball or container to a depth equal to the root ball. Set the tree so that the bulge in the stem is at ground level. The hole for shrubs may be a bit deeper with some compost added before placing the shrub. Build a cone in the hole and spread the roots around the cone, removing broken roots that have circled the root ball. Pack the soil around the roots; air will damage the roots and rootlets.
Prevent wind from blowing the newly planted tree over by placing a rubber band fastened to the tree and a sturdy stake. Remove it in the second year once the tree is firmly set in the ground.
In the first year, water deeply to ensure the soil is continually moist. Place mulch around the tree to the drip line, the edge of the branches. When using wood chips add some nitrogen; decomposing wood chips need nitrogen. Taking the nitrogen out of the soil may deprive the tree of nitrogen. In dry weather water each tree with up to 5 gallons of water daily. Mulching reduces the need for water.
There are two ways to prune. First and safest is to hire an arborist. Or do it yourself. The best tree pruners are artists, able to cleverly shape the tree to make it attractive and healthy.
To prune properly you will need pruning shears, a by-pass pruner for removing dead wood, a lopper for high branches, a ladder, and a saw.
Prune deciduous trees in the dormant season, fall to March. Prune flowering trees after they have flowered, giving them time to form next year’s blossoms.
Keep the natural shape of the tree or bush. Remove dead, diseased, or branches that rub on each other. Then open up the interior by removing branches that cross over or under. For young trees, especially fruit trees, select branches that are spaced a reasonable vertical distance apart, and remove all branches between them.
When removing large branches, start with an undercut about a foot from the trunk. Then cut on the top about 6 inches away from the undercut. Any bark will not strip away from the undercut. Remove the short stub close to the trunk.
Do not top a tree; it will grow rapidly to its original height. It may even die of a lack of nourishment if it has been deprived of too many leaves.
For more articles, go to learningbygrowing.com
Charles Schroder gardens in the Edmonton area.