On a walk this week enjoying our pleasant weather, I discovered this “compass” tree shown in the picture. Since it was pointing north, thought I would give it a nickname. What, when and how … and now what?
Several things could have gone wrong here. The biggest is that no one has corrected it yet! When trees are installed, they should be correctly staked at the time of planting. A single skinny stake or bamboo rod is not close to being adequate. It’s always best to use at least two stakes supporting the tree in two directions to stay straight verses pulling from just one angle. Three stakes are best!
It’s best to use steel fence post with garden hose and heavy wire 9 gauge or so. The hose piece only needs to be long enough to wrap around the trunk portion and it protects the tree trunk from direct damage. The wire runs through the hose and is secured to the fence post. Tree stakes may need to be in place for several years, until the tree is established so make it solid.
So how does a tree suddenly go crooked when you just planted it straight? The planting hole may end up with empty pockets even though you thought you packed in the soil correctly. After the initial watering, it’s not so straight anymore.
Another potential cause is the hole was dug just big enough to pop in the plant. A planting hole for a tree should be dug to twice the size of the root ball or container. I agree, who wants to do that? Especially an issue on clay soils, the roots may have a difficult time growing into the sidewalls of the planting hole. Roots will grow towards the least resistance, so they may grow back into the root ball and actually not securing the plant into the surrounding soil.
The hole may have been correctly dug, but since it wasn’t adequately staked, a strong wind could easily tip it over if it was leafed out. This particular tree is in a windy location.
So, what can be done? Since the soil is barely frozen, if at all, it could actually be dug up and re-set correctly. It is dormant right now so it’s no different that moving a tree in the fall or planting bare root stock. There may be a few roots that would have to be cut, but the compass tree needs help!
If this tree was older and more established, then I would suggest using a ratchet strap over time to gradually pull it back to firmly planted steel fence posts or a large established neighboring tree. I always pity the poor boulevard trees with the empty ‘gator’ bags tied around their base. It seems every year, there are so may uncared for dead boulevard trees.
Should we be expecting winter yet? I have my eyes on a couple of peonies I plan to move this spring. Fall is the best time to move them, however I have had successful spring moves as well. Success depends on your timing. The plants need to be moved before they start to grow and peonies start are early!
Moving an entire plant without dividing will also be more successful than dividing in the spring. These plants are monsters and will need to be divided. If I only had a couple of plants, I may not risk it, but they are plentiful in my gardens.
Almost any perennial can be dug and divided successfully before it starts growing while it is still dormant. Time wise early to mid-March when possible. Plants should be sizeable before dividing, and many will never need to be divided. For example, a daylily plant should have a base that is the size of a dinner plate before dividing. If a daylily or peony has enough space, they really don’t need to be divided — ever. My peonies are in a re-do area and need to vamoose!
The indoor winter markets for the Mankato Farmer’s Market are in full swing! The market is located at Bomgaars Supply on Adams Street by Hilltop Hy-Vee, and the market area is located inside the store at the west end. The Farmer’s Market is held every first and third Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon, through March 16th. Stop by and shop our awesome vendors! Updates and information can be found on our Facebook page — Mankato Farmer’s Market. The next market is Saturday, Feb. 3rd.