Planting the right tree…in the right place

By Jan Herbert

Rockford Park District

Whether you were “green” before the color was fashionable or whether you’re just ready to find the “shade” that works best for you, here’s information about doing just “one green thing.”

There is more to this than running to the local nursery and grabbing a tree. A few tips…

Select a location by imagining what it will look like in 20 years. This will help you resist the impulse to plant too close to the fence or too near to power lines. Just dial 811 to have all underground lines and pipes marked…even if you are just planting a little tree, honest.

Learn more about trees in general (good aspects and bad). Take into consideration how far out they will branch (to avoid having branches rubbing your house), and what type of leaves you would like (are you looking for shade or just a beautiful appearance?). What other plantings, bushes, etc., are nearby, and how much water will it need? Eventually, you will probably mulch under the tree, so planning now will make mowing easier later.

Remember to diversify the trees in your yard. Think of Dutch elm disease of the 1950s and how our Forest City suffered so badly. Coming could be the emerald ash borer and oak wilt or 1,000 cankers, a disease of the black walnut tree. Do not be tempted to choose the tree that is the lowest price or labeled “fast growing” (these can often be silver maple or sycamore varieties, and they, too, can have their downsides).

Take the time to learn just a little about trees. Call the University of Illinois Extension Office (815-986-4357), talk to friends, do a little online homework, and after you make a plan, you can plant a tree to be enjoyed for years to come.

For more information, e-mail Jan Herbert at

From the May 12-18, 2010 issue

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