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Tips for planting trees in Sacramento

Scarlet oak
Fall colors such as the leaves of this scarlet oak ( Quercus coccinea ), photographed in Elk Grove, may inspire you to plant a tree or two this fall. Follow the Sacramento Tree Foundation guidelines to ensure a healthy tree. (Photo credit: UC Master Gardener Jan Fetler)

October is great time to make major (and shady) addition to your landscape

A strong beginning leads to a lifetime of success. That’s particularly true of trees.

It takes a young tree about three full years to establish a strong root system and sturdy trunk. Mistakes made in planting can have major consequences throughout a tree’s life, including premature death.

October is considered the best month to plant a tree in Sacramento. Warm soil and cooler weather help trees put down deep roots.

But most young trees come in 5-gallon pots with few if any instructions.

To get that addition to your landscape off to the best start possible, the Sacramento Tree Foundation offers these tips:

* Remove and discard grass and weeds in a 4-foot-wide circle.

* Dig your hole 4 feet wide and 8 to 10 inches deep. Score the sides of the hole, so the inside of the hole is not smooth.

* Remove the entire root ball from the container. Thoroughly loosen and extend side and bottom roots from the root ball. Cut any roots circling the root ball with a sharp tool.

* Place the root ball in the hole so the root crown (where to trunk meets the roots) is about 1.5 to 2 inches above the surrounding ground level.

* Place the existing soil back in the hole. Do not place grass or weeds or soil amendment in the hole. When backfilling the hole, avoid air pockets by lightly tamping, but don't compact the soil. Refill the hole only up to the top of the root ball.

* Water your newly planted tree deeply after planting.

For more tips and a tree-planting video:

- Debbie Arrington


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of May 28:

Make the most of these cooler temperatures. Get to work!

* Keep an eye out for slugs, snails, earwigs and aphids that want to dine on tender new growth.

* Feed summer bloomers with a balanced fertilizer.

* For continued bloom, cut off spent flowers on roses as well as other flowering plants.

* Don’t forget to water. Seedlings need moisture. Deep watering will help build strong roots and healthy plants.

* Put your veggie garden on a regular diet. Set up a monthly fertilization program, and keep track on your calendar. Make sure to water your garden before applying any fertilizer to prevent “burning” your plants.

* As spring-flowering shrubs finish blooming, give them a little pruning to shape them, removing old and dead wood. Lightly trim azaleas, fuchsias and marguerites for bushier plants.

* Add mulch to the garden to maintain soil moisture and cut down on weeds. Leave about a 6-inch to 1-foot circle around tree or shrub trunks to avoid crown rot or other problems.

* Plant, plant, plant! Set out tomato transplants along with peppers, eggplants, squash and melons.

* Direct-seed melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes, pumpkins and annual herbs such as basil.

* In the flower garden, direct-seed or transplant sunflowers, cosmos, salvia, zinnias, marigolds, celosia and asters.

* Plant dahlia tubers. Other perennials to set out include verbena, coreopsis, coneflower and astilbe.

* Transplant summer color such as petunias and marigolds.

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