Arbor Day Experiment (Part 1)

Arbor Day Experiment (Part 1)

They finally came! My experiment with Arbor Day has begun. Earlier in the year I ordered several trees from the National Arbor Day Society. I also got a few free trees with my order. I know many people have had mixed results when ordering from Arbor Day. They either have trees that don’t make it through the winter, receive dead trees, or get the wrong plant. Most of what I received was in good condition, not perfect, but good. My ornamental cherry tree had one branch that was broken at the top and one on the side. The little hemlocks I got were very little (not a big surprise) and one of the four had lost quite a few leaves. I received two free red maples that seemed to be in good shape with adequate root systems for the size trees they were (3 foot). I also got a couple free forsythias that looked pretty good. One even had a side chute that had its own roots, had I been more industrious I would have cut it from the main stem and let it be its own plant. Since I had plenty to do I didn’t worry about it.

The trees were sent wrapped in wet packing material that looked like strips of paper. Underneath the paper the roots were coated with a water retaining crystal material to keep them moist. The trees were attached to a bamboo stake for support. The roots of the trees were wrapped in plastic bags then the whole set of trees was placed into a triangular shaped cardboard box for shipping. Here’s a picture of the trees in their packing material on the right.

Impressive right?

OK maybe not, but they’re tiny trees, every tree starts out small.

The instructions said to soak them for 3-6 hours before planting. I did not have 3-6 hours to soak the trees from when they were delivered to when I planted them, instead I put them in a bucket of water for the length of time it took me to dig the holes.

See bucket:

See Bucket with plants:

The hole digging was easy as the ground was still a bit wet from rain on the previous day. It’s amazing how different the dirt can be from one side of the lot to the other. Near the street the ground is almost all clay and toward the back is a very rich dark dirt with lots of worms.

Here are the trees that I planted:

American Sweetgum, Two Red Maples, Sugar Maple, Two River Birches, Three Forsythias, Yoshino Cherry, Four Canadian Hemlocks, Red Osier Dogwood

Some people don’t like the sweetgum because of its burrs but its fall color can be spectacular. This particular tree had some good roots (see picture on right). It went into the ground on the eastern side of our back yard. There is a tree near there that it will eventually replace. The two red maples were free trees and are planted in the back to section off the area to eventually make a wooded glade. The sugar maple is parallel to our Red Sunset maple about 30 feet or so from our house. The birch is planted behind the birdbath garden to create shelter for the birds. The Yoshino Cherry is in the front yard because of its spring flower display along with the forsythias which are next to the road. Two of the forsythias are on one corner of our lot and the other near the mailbox. The second birch is located in the back near a water runoff area. Since the natural habitat for river birches is along side banks and streams it should be able to handle the extra moisture. One of the hemlocks joined our hemlock hedge and the other three were potted up since they were kind of small. The red osier dogwood was put into our front garden bed temporarily until I can remove and replace the hollies there.

To plant the trees I dug hole about 12-18 inches in diameter then churned up the dirt in the holes. I did not amend the holes since I want the trees to get used to the soil they will be growing in for the rest of their lives. I placed the trees into the holes with the crown of the roots just above the soil line. Then I watered the trees and mulched. Two and a half hours later I was done.

Will they live? Thats the question! I’ll update on their progress for spring with before and after pictures. Right now the before pictures just look like sticks in the ground! The only plants I am concerned about are the hemlocks. They don’t look very strong but we’ll see!


Dave has written since 2007. He gardens on an acre and a half where he raises his 5 children. He enjoys growing vegetables, herbs, and propagating plants. Dave works as a real estate agent in Spring Hill, TN.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Good luck with your new trees, Dave. Maybe they don’t look so promising now, but hey, they can’t grow if they never get a chance, right? I ordered dozens of bareroot baby trees last spring from one of those awful mail-order nurseries that shall remain nameless; I lost about 30 percent of them, but the survivors look pretty good. And of course, the ones that survived are those that “the books” say don’t like to be transplanted. Go figure.

  2. Thanks for the good wishes on my trees! Last year I had 10 of the free trees and six of them survived the winter. I’m subscribing to the theory that if they arrive alive and I take care of them right they’ll survive. Of course there are lots of factors like weather, soil diseases, or pests to possibly content with, but I’m hopeful things will go well! It’s hard to beat the price I paid. Anything that doesn’t work out with these trees will probably get replaced with an older nursery stock tree.

Comments are closed.

Close Menu