Besides adding a jolt of seasonal color with their festive spring flowers or bright autumn leaves, trees can perform a lot of purely practical feats around the old homestead:
Cut your energy costs. Strategically placed deciduous trees offer cooling shade in the summer, and then conveniently shed their leaves in the fall, so sunlight can filter through all winter long — just when you need it most.
Hold your soil in place. Trees’ extensive root systems grab the ground, so the soil is less likely to wash away when the rain just won’t stop.
Fight your pest-control battles. Trees offer food and shelter for birds and other critters, which feast on destructive insects.
Boost your property value. Handsome, healthy, and well-placed trees can increase your home’s sticker price considerably.
Most trees can be planted any time the ground isn’t frozen. Here’s how to get ‘em started out on the right root:
STEP 1: Thoroughly water the roots of your tree.
STEP 2: Dig a hole that’s wide and deep enough to accommodate the roots. Make jagged slices into the sides of the hole, then work a handful or two of my Woody Plant Booster Mix into the bottom of the hole:
Mix 4 pounds of compost, 2 pounds of gypsum, 1 pound of dry dog food, 1 pound of dry oatmeal, and 1 pound of Epsom salts together in a tub or wheelbarrow. Then work a handful or two of the mixture into the planting hole of each tree or shrub.
STEP 3: Set the tree into the hole so the beginning of the trunk—the spot where the bark turns lighter—is above the soil surface.
STEP 4: Refill the planting hole about halfway, the flood the hole to the top with water, wait for it to sink in, and finish refilling the hole with water.
STEP 5: Use leftover soil to form a raised ring around the edge of the planting hole, then water again for about five minutes with your hose nozzle on moderately low pressure.
STEP 6: Spread several inches of organic mulch within the ring that you’ve made around the root zone. But be sure to keep the mulch about 6 inches away from the trunk to protect it from diseases and pests.