the farm

6 Tips for Growing Healthy Trees from the Start

Planting trees is not only a great way to improve the look of your yard, it also helps improve the environment. Trees provide oxygen, improve air quality, conserve water, preserve soil, and create safe habitats for wildlife. During the process of photosynthesis, trees take in carbon dioxide and produce the oxygen we breathe. Trees also filter air by removing dust, and absorb other pollutants including carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. On top of that, trees also provide fun places for children to play and explore and are beautiful sights to behold.

In the Western North Carolina mountains, where our farm is located, more than 100 species of trees can be found. That's more species of trees than in all of Europe.1 This rich biodiversity, in addition to its potential to grow a vast array of herbs, is what drew our company to choose this area for our farm location.

On our farm this Spring, we began the process of planting over 1,000 new trees, including four additional acres containing Hawthorn trees and over 500 new Ginkgo trees. Western Black Walnut trees were also added. The walnuts from these trees will be used in our Microbiome Cleanse, Black Walnut Green Hulls and Wormwood Black Walnut Supreme. We also removed invasive plant species along the banks of Cathey’s Creek, which flows through our farm, and replaced these with a variety of native trees and shrubs including American Beautyberry, Ohio Buckeyes, Tulip Poplars, Mulberry, and Maple trees.

With all of the new tree planting happening around our farm, we asked our Farm Operations Manager, Thomas Leonard, to share his top tree planting tips

6 Tips for Planting Healthy, Thriving Trees

Plant the Right Tree in the Right Place.

Trees in front of a house

This doesn’t necessarily mean the species, but rather if it is a deciduous or coniferous tree. A deciduous tree is one that has leaves that change color in the fall and loses its leaves every year, and a coniferous tree is a a cone-bearing tree with needles instead of leaves that maintains its green throughout the year. We recommend planting deciduous trees closer to your home, this way they provide shade during the summer months and let the sunlight through during the winter months. As for coniferous trees, these are great to plant around the edges of your property for added privacy.

Choose Tree Types Native To Your Area.

Before you choose a tree type, you should check which hardiness zone you are in. The hardiness zone is an indication of your average annual minimum temperature and will help you in determining what species of trees will do best in your area. A good idea is to plant a species of tree that is native to your area and is proven to survive well in your climate. The USDA offers a great search engine to find plants local to your region, even down to the county.

Go Big. Dig Large Holes for Your New Trees.

Digging a large hole when planting your new tree ensures that the roots have soft ground to grow into during the first year or two. Leonard shared, "You should dig a much larger hole than you actually need for the size of the root ball, as it helps provide space for young roots to push into the soil. By digging a bigger hole, you are helping set up the tree for long-term success."

Include Organic Compost, Native Soil and Wood Chips.

Thomas Leonard adds organic compost and matter to tree hole.

Incorporating organic compost into the native soil helps release beneficial compounds, such as Nitrogen, into the soil and provides nutrients for the trees. According to Leonard, "You should mix in native soil with the compost as the compost on its own is often too strong for the plants and can actually burn the roots, so the combination of compost and native soil prevents this." After filling in the hole, spread wood chips as mulch around the base of your tree in order to keep the ground from drying out, as well as providing a habitat for beneficial fungi.

Carefully Water Your New Trees.

For the first two to three months, your tree may need some extra help with watering as it roots are getting established in the ground. You should water your new trees at least once a week to make sure that the roots do not dry out. After this initial period, you will then only need to water your new trees if your area is going through an especially dry period.

Add Stakes for Visibility.

Trees planted around the Gaia Herbs Farm

Staking the seedlings or young trees helps to maintain the integrity of the trunk. Stakes also help you easily spot young trees, which are shorter in height, so you do not accidentally mow over them while working in your yard.

Planting a Brighter Future

There's a popular Chinese proverb that says: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” Planting trees is something simple that everyone can do which provides immediate environmental benefits, brings beauty and interest to your yard, and also helps to restore these majestic treasures for future generations to enjoy.

If you have any helpful tips on planting healthier trees, share your ideas with us on Instagram or Facebook. We’d love to hear what has worked best for you.

References: 
1 Biodiversity. Blue Ridge National Heritage Area. https://www.blueridgeheritage.com/heritage/natural/biodiversity/