Tree Planting & Care
Digging the hole. It is very important not to dig a deep hole, fill it with loose soil, and plant on top of the loose soil! Over time the loose soil will compact and the tree will sink below the grade of the surrounding area. Water will accumulate in the low area and the tree will drown. The tree needs to be slightly above the level of the surrounding area. Dig the hole the depth of the soil in the container and about a foot wider, which will allow about 6” all the way around the rootball for soil when re-filling the hole.
Planting the tree. For trees in fiber bags, pull the tree up beside the hole, lean it over and cut a large “X” all the way across the bottom of the bag. Now slide it into the hole and check to be sure the depth is right. Now cut the sides of the bag all the way to the top from the tips of the “X” on the bottom. Now the bag is in four equal pieces and can be easily removed from the rootball. Refill the sides of the hole with dirt. It is better not to use amendments to the soil at this stage—just fill the hole with dirt. Water thoroughly to remove any trapped air in the soil around the rootball.
For trees in plastic containers, pull the container up to the hole, lift the container up and hit the top edges of the bucket hard with the heel of your hand until the container separates from the rootball. Slide the rootball into the hole and proceed as above.
Fertilization. Most of the soils in the Hill Country and along the I 35 corridor are alkaline and low in nitrogen (N), but are not really deficient of phosphorus (P) or potassium (K). Nitrogen is the element that causes the tree to grow and it is important to supply it to the tree before growth starts in the spring (usually late February or March). Our favorite fertilizer is Osmocote and we always have it on hand in 3 lb. Ziploc bags. It releases the nutrients to the tree slowly, will not burn, and may be applied just once for the entire year. If getting the fertilizer from us is not practical, select a slow release fertilizer with a 3-1-2 formulation (that is, a 15-5-10 rather than a balanced one like 15-15-15).
For fertilizing newly planted trees, the Osmocote fertilizer described above can be mixed with the soil used to fill the 6” space around the rootball. For 5 gallon trees use ¼ cup. For 15 gallon trees or 16” growbags use one cup. For 30 gallon trees use 2 cups.
For fertilizing established trees, the fertilizer must be applied to the feeder roots of the tree, which are usually under the tips of the branches, and deep enough below the soil surface to not be used up by competing plants (like grasses). So, punch 5 or 6 holes (more for larger trees) under the tips of the branches. An in-and-out pattern of holes may help you locate the feeder roots. The holes should be about a foot deep and can be made with a metal rod or large screwdriver. Distribute the fertilizer equally between the holes and then close the holes. For 15 gallon trees use 1 1/2 to 2 cups of Osmocote. If you are in doubt about the amount of fertilizer to use, call or email Baxter Adams and he can assist you with the amount. Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org and the phone number is (830) 589-2588.
The easiest fertilization can be made with well-composted natural manures. They are very safe to use but are slow to act. They can be used in almost any instance and have many benefits. Composted sheep or cow manure is widely available and inexpensive.
Seeding and Coloring Bigtooth Maples
Maples are cherished everywhere because of the brilliance of their autumn colors. The range of colors in Bigtooth maple trees is astonishingly large. They may be dark purple, deep red, bright red, pink, apricot, bright yellow, yellow orange, and red orange and some colors that may not have been described yet.
There is no way to know what color a young maple tree will be–it is simply pot luck. All the seedling trees may be any color, regardless of the color of their parent. Whatever its’ color, it remains throughout the tree’s life. There may be a little variation of the shade of color from year to year because of weather conditions, but red trees are never orange or gold.
The weather conditions as fall approaches are a principal factor in the coloration of the trees. Dry conditions along with cold nights and warm days as the trees prepare for dormancy provide excellent conditions for a colorful autumn. Warm humid weather or unseasonable hot weather are adverse to good color and usually prevent colors from developing.
Another important factor in developing color in the fall is the location of the tree. Trees with excellent drainage, such as on the sides of hills, or on the face of bluffs will color earlier and more strongly than those in flat bottomland locations in the deeper soils.
Bigtooth maples do not seed every year. Their seeding is very irregular and sometimes four or five years may pass with only a few trees making seed. Periodically there are general seedings when most of the trees are heavy with seed. All of the seeds that fall do not germinate in the first year, but continue to germinate for a number of years thereafter in decreasing numbers. The irregular seedings, together with the staggered germination of the seeds, helps provide a steadier supply of seedling trees.
In a few years we have witnessed tremendous production of seeds. In the Bandera County area of Texas, 2009 was the largest seeding year in the past 28 years, and 2010 was an even more prolific seeding year when nearly every tree had great quantities of seed. This unusual event may have been caused by the record setting drought of 2008 and 2009 which severely stressed the trees and may have forced them into a survival mode—nature’s epic battle to insure the survival of a threatened species.