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The Registry of Nature Habitats - Plants for Wildlife
The Registry of Nature Habitats

Attracting Butterflies

Attracting Wild Birds

[Mourning Dove]

Feeding Wild Birds

[Rose Breasted Grosbeak]

Identifying Wild Birds

[White Breasted Nuthatch]

Pests

[Cowbird]

Photographing Birds

[Heron]

Plants to Attract Birds

[Water Attracts Wildlife]

Protecting Wild Birds

Bluebird taking a peak

Your Favorite Birds

[Downy Woodpecker]

Watching Wild Birds

[Black Capped Chickadee]

Wild Bird Links

[Wood Duck]

A Plant's Home(Opening Soon)

[Ponds Attract Wildlife]

Nature Store Links

[Moths]

Art & Posters

Baffles

Bat Houses

Beneficial Insect Houses and Food

Binoculars

Bird Houses

Bird Seed

Birdbaths, Sprinklers, Misters & Accessories

Butterfly Feeders

Butterfly Houses

Fruit Feeders

Garden & Plant Accessories

Garden Art

Ladybugs & Houses

Nature Books

Spotting Scopes & Telescopes

Squirrel Houses & Feeders

Wildbird Feeders

Wildbird Resources & Information

Windchimes, Weathervanes, Spinners, Banners & Kites


A Bird's Home

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Make a home for birds, butterflies, and nature's other creatures.

In your backyard

Habitat is a combination of food, water, shelter, and space arranged to meet the needs of wildlife. Even a small yard can be landscaped to attract birds, butterflies, beneficial insects, and small animals. Trees, shrubs, and other plants provide shelter and food for wildlife.

The plants you use for food and cover will help determine the wildlife species attracted to your backyard. Nesting boxes, feeders, and watering sites can be added to improve the habitat.


Planning your wildlife habitat

Planning is necessary for attractive and productive wildlife habitat. You have both a horizontal area to work with--the size of your lot--as well as a vertical area that stretches from your soil to the treetops. The vertical area is composed of the canopy formed by the tallest tree branches; understory vegetation consisting of smaller trees, shrubs, and vines; the floor which is often dominated by low-growing groundcovers; and the basement where a variety of organisms exist in the soil. Different wildlife species live in each of these zones, so numerous habitats can be provided on a small piece of land.
Trees and shrubs are the backbone of any landscaping design and are important for wildlife shelter. Many tree and shrub species are excellent sources of food for wildlife. Proper selection of plant material can meet both the aesthetic needs of the homeowner and the food and shelter needs of wildlife. Remember that you are part of the habitat!
Steps to create habitat for wildlife
1. Identify all existing plants, if any. Note:
  • Condition of the plants and their locations.
  • How much shade the trees and shrubs provide.
  • Are trees evergreen or do they drop their leaves in the fall?
  • Do they provide valuable food sources?

2. Make a sketch of your yard noting all existing plants, buildings, utilities, and pathways. You may even consider removing some plants. In some cases, trees have been planted too close to buildings or have grown much larger than the previous owner envisioned. Some species may be of little wildlife value and may not be particularly attractive. Once you have identified existing plants you want to save, start exploring options for plants that will work well with these species. The existing plants around your yard may be adequate to attract some wildlife, but a few changes can effectively enhance the existing habitat. Diversity in the landscape is necessary. Some plants provide food but very little cover; others provide cover but little food.

3. Add trees, shrubs, flowers, and groundcovers to your plan. Not all the planting needs to be done at once. If money or time is limited, consider it a work in progress.

4. Plant a variety of trees first. Select evergreen species for year-round cover and shelter. Select fruit or nut-bearing plants for a food source. Native species are well suited for providing wildlife habitat because they are adapted to the local soil, climate, and wildlife. Additional considerations for choosing and placement include:

Eventual size. Whether they are evergreen or deciduous (trees that drop their leaves). Deciduous trees planted on the south side of a house will provide summer shade, but will not completely block winter sun.

Neighboring properties.

Flowering and fruiting habit. Select plants that flower and bear fruit at different times of the year. Some shrubs that produce berries can provide food throughout the year. Trees with nuts and fruit can also provide seasonal foods. (See the tip sheet on tree planting for suggested species.)

5. Fill in with smaller shade-tolerant understory trees and shrubs. Adding these to an existing landscape will enhance the vertical structure that is common in natural landscapes. Many smaller trees and shrubs are colorful in the spring when they flower, and provide berries for fall and winter feed.

6. Flowering annuals (plants that live one growing season) and perennials (plants that live for more than a year) add color to the yard and can be added at any stage to attract birds and butterflies. If your yard is large, consider using part of it for tall native grasses that provide beauty, as well as a natural source of food and shelter. A native wildflower garden provides the same function. Even on a small lot, native wildflowers, as well as some common garden species, can provide attractive habitat for a variety of birds and butterflies. Avoid straight lines and perfect symmetry. Natural habitat has curves and clumps of vegetation. Wildlife is not particularly attracted to a well-manicured lawn. Wildlife is more likely to come out into the open for viewing when the boundary of the yard is designed and maintained as a retreat for animals.

Landscaping for birds

Food and cover are essential for the survival of all species. Loss of suitable nesting sites is a major factor in the decline of some bird species. In the wild, many species nest in cavities of dead trees. With the loss of hedgerows in some parts of the country and the removal of dead trees in towns, natural nesting sites are often limited. Also, some highly competitive, non-native species of birds have taken over some of the existing nesting sites once occupied by native birds.

Bird species are extremely variable in their habits. Some like deeply wooded areas; others prefer open fields and meadows. Many species are year-round residents, while others such as the cedar waxwing appear only for a few days a year during migration. Other species such as sparrows, blue jays, cardinals, robins, juncos, and chickadees are highly adaptable and found in many environments.

Many people are not aware of the value of dead, dying, and hollow trees, as well as logs on the ground, for birds and other wildlife. Dead trees provide homes to more than 400 species of birds, mammals, and amphibians. Fish, plants, and fungi also benefit from dead and dying trees. Consider leaving standing dead and dying trees in your yard unless they pose a human safety or property hazard, and use old logs and stumps in gardens and landscaping.

Plant species for birds

Below are some plant species to consider for wildlife habitat. Check with a local nursery on plants suitable for your area. Some of these plants, while suited for wildlife, may have characteristics such as shallow roots or weak limbs that make them inappropriate for small urban properties--or they may not be winter hardy in all locations. Birds eat any flower seed, depending on the kind of bird and seed.

Trees for birds:

  • American beech (Fagus grandifolia)
  • American holly (Ilex opaca)
  • Balsam fir (Abies balsamea)
  • Black cherry (Prunus serotina)
  • Black gum (Nyssa sylvatica)
  • Crabapple (Malus spp.)
  • Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)
  • Hawthorns (Crataegus spp.)
  • Hickories (Carya spp.)
  • Live oak (Quercus virginiana)
  • Oaks (Quercus spp.)
  • Red mulberry (Morus rubra)
  • Shrubs for birds:

  • Common juniper (Juniperus communis)
  • Highbush blueberry (Vaccinium spp.)
  • Hollies--both evergreen and deciduous species (Ilex spp.)
  • Pyracantha (Pyracantha spp.)
  • Red-osier dogwood (Cornus stolonifera)
  • Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea)
  • Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)
  • Sumacs (Rhus spp.)
  • Viburnums (Viburnum spp.)
  • Wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera)
  • Vines for birds:
  • American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens)
  • Trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens and related spp.)
  • Strawberry (Fragaria spp.)
  • Trumpet creeper or vine (Campis radicans)
  • Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
  • Wild grape (Vitis spp.)
  • Nectar plants for hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees:

  • Aster (Aster spp.)
  • Azalea (Rhododendron spp.)
  • Bee balm (Monarda spp.)
  • Butterfly bush (Buddleia alternifolia)
  • Butterfly weed and other milkweeds (Asclepias spp.)
  • Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
  • Clover and other legumes
  • Columbine (Aquilegia spp.)
  • Coneflower (Echinacea spp.)
  • Delphinium (Delphinium spp.)
  • Fuchsia (Fuchsia spp.)
  • Honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.)
  • Jewel weed (Impatiens capensis or I. pallida)
  • Lobelia (Lobelia spp.)
  • Lupine (Lupinus spp.)
  • Penstemon (Penstemon spp.)
  • Phlox (Phlox spp.)
  • Salvia (Salvia spp.)
  • Trumpet creeper or vine (Campis radicans)
  • Weigela (Weigela spp.)
  • Zinnia (Zinnia spp.)
  • Additional food and shelter for birds

    Few yards will be able to supply sufficient food or shelter for a variety of birds all year long. However, you can improve shelter and food supplies by building or purchasing feeders and houses, and by setting out certain foods.

    All bird species have specific nesting requirements. Because of these requirements, your yard may not accommodate certain species. For instance, Eastern bluebirds prefer nesting sites that border open fields or lawns with a tree or fence post nearby to provide feeding perches. Chickadees prefer to nest in brushy wooded areas.

    Before setting out nesting houses, find out which species are common in your area and can be encouraged to nest in your yard. Make or buy a bird house specifically designed for the bird you wish to attract. The size of the entrance hole is critical to prevent the eggs and young from being destroyed by larger birds--always check a list of appropriate hole sizes. Other considerations include box size, height above the ground, direction the entrance hole faces, and amount of sunlight. Boxes may need baffles or other protective devices to limit access by cats and other predators. A good reference publication is "Homes for Birds" by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Migratory Bird Management. It is available at two internet sites: http://www.fws.gov/r9mbmo/pamphlet/pamplets.html or http://birding.miningco.com/msub12.htm.

    Many species of birds can be attracted by a variety of feed in different styles of feeders. There are many styles of bird feeders available, from window-mounted feeders to those that hang from branches and stands. Many birds will readily eat right off the ground. Bird feed comes in a variety of choices; however, sunflower seeds appeal to many birds, as well as small mammals. Woodpeckers, nuthatches, and chickadees are especially attracted to suet. Citrus fruit, chopped apples and bananas, and raisins will be eaten by numerous species, including robins, titmouse, nuthatches, woodpeckers, and mockingbirds.

    Feeders may also attract wildlife species you may not want to feed such as starlings, crows, and squirrels. Feeder type and placement and the type of food can help deter unwanted species.

    Unlike many other species of birds, hummingbirds rely on nectar as their source of food. These tiny, migratory birds are commonly seen in the summer in northern states gathering nectar from colorful flowers. Hummingbirds are typically attracted to red and yellow tubular flowers, although they frequently visit others. Hummingbird feeders can be purchased and filled with a sugar-water solution, consisting of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. Every 3 to 4 days, wash the feeder with soap and water, rinse thoroughly, and add new sugar water.

    Food and shelter for butterflies

    Colorful butterflies and moths add beauty and interest to your backyard. There are hundreds of different species of butterflies and moths in North America. Butterflies and moths are insects. They hatch into larvae (commonly referred to as caterpillars), eventually become pupae, and develop into colorful adults. How long the process takes depends on the species and the climate.

    Butterflies and moths are amazingly particular in their food choices. The larval stage of the butterfly may require food quite different from that of the adult. Some larvae consume tremendous amounts of plant material, seemingly devouring plants overnight. A common example in the garden is the tomato hornworm which rapidly strips tomato plants of their leaves. An equally voracious, but beautiful, larvae is the Eastern black swallowtail which is found only on plants in the carrot family, including celery, carrot, dill, and parsley. A close relative is the Eastern tiger swallowtail that eats the foliage of wild cherry, birch, poplar, ash, and tulip trees.

    Adult butterflies require food in liquid form such as plant-produced nectar. They get some of it from flowers and from juices of extra-ripe fruit. The types of flowering plants you grow will determine the kinds of butterflies you attract to your backyard. In addition to the plants listed for hummingbirds, butterfly bush is especially attractive. Find out what species are common in your area and use plants they like. Nectar feeders can be placed in the yard to attract butterflies. Do not use insecticides near plants for butterflies. Learn to recognize larval and egg forms. That large green and black caterpillar eating your dill may one day turn into the gorgeous butterfly you were hoping to attract!

    Butterflies, like all insects, are most active when temperatures are warmer. While moths are commonly found at night, most butterflies are active on sunny, warm days. Butterflies will benefit from a basking site where they can warm up on cool mornings. Add a light-colored rock or concrete garden sculpture as a basking site. Butterflies also need a source of water. A shallow dish of water or a depression in a rock that retains water is all they need.

    Attracting bees

    In the United States, there are nearly 5,000 different species of native bees. Most of them are solitary, friendly bees that nest in holes in the ground or burrows in twigs and dead tree limbs. These bees do not have hives to protect them, so they are not aggressive and rarely sting. Bumblebees, carpenter bees, sweat bees, leafcutter bees, digger bees, and others pollinate many different kinds of plants. They play a critical role in healthy wild plant communities and gardens. About 30 percent of our diet is the direct result of a pollinating visit by a bee to a flowering fruit tree or vegetable plant. Providing bee habitat in your yard can increase the quality and quantity of your fruits and vegetables.

    Bees are extremely sensitive to many commonly applied insecticides. If you must use chemical insecticides in your garden, apply them in the evening when bees are less likely to be active.

    Bees are attracted to most flowering plants, and are especially fond of blue and yellow flowers. Try planting your garden to have different species blooming in the spring, summer, and fall.

    Bee houses

    A good use for untreated scrap lumber (at least 3 to 5 inches thick) is to drill holes (from 1/8-inch to 5/16-inch in diameter) about 90 percent of the way into the thick wooden block. Space the holes about 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch apart. The 5/16-inch holes work best as homes for orchard bees which are excellent pollinators of fruit trees. Hang your bee blocks under the eaves of your house or garden shed, protected from direct sun and rain.

    Attracting bats to your yard

    Bats are a beneficial and interesting mammal. Bats are the single most important controller of night-flying insects, including mosquitoes, moths, and beetles. For example, a single little brown bat can catch up to 600 mosquitoes in an hour. Watching bats fly around light posts catching bugs can be an interesting nighttime activity.

    A bat house in your yard will help attract bats and provide them with much-needed roosting habitat. The house should be placed on a pole at least 15 feet high in a spot that receives sun most of the day. Tree trunks are usually too shady for bat boxes. Some bat species such as gray bats, red bats, and hoary bats will use shrubs and trees for roosting under loose bark or in cavities.

    Many species of bats migrate in the fall and hibernate throughout the winter months in caves, mines, or buildings. If disturbed during hibernation, their metabolism is increased, depleting fat reserves and reducing their chances of survival.

    As with all wildlife, bats should be watched, but not handled or chased. Generally, bats are shy of humans and will not attack or fly after a person. However, if caught or picked up from the ground, a bat may bite.

    Attracting reptiles and amphibians

    Toads, frogs, lizards, turtles, and snakes all have a place in the backyard. While many people may not want some of these animals in their yards, most species are harmless and often quite beneficial--feeding on destructive insects or rodents.

    Shelter for reptiles and amphibians is easy to provide. Several rocks piled in a sunny spot will provide basking sites. Consider planting shade-tolerant groundcovers under trees and leaving a thick layer of leaves to provide cool shelter. Stumps, logs, and rock piles in a shady spot can be valuable.

    Water for wildlife

    Clean, fresh water is as important to birds, bats, butterflies, and other wildlife as it is for people. Water in a saucer, bird bath, or backyard pond is adequate for wildlife. Be sure to change the water every few days to keep it fresh. In hot weather, it may be necessary to refill the container daily.

    Logs, rocks, and water-holding structures provide drinking and basking habitat for turtles, butterflies, and songbirds. Stones with depressions that collect water will help attract butterflies.

    A word about attracting mammals

    Squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, raccoons, opossums, skunks, woodchucks, mice, and deer are commonly found in many urban environments. These species are highly adaptable and, in many cases, are becoming unwanted visitors rather than welcome guests.

    As with all wildlife, cover is essential for the survival of these species. Small brush piles intended for amphibians and reptiles will also provide shelter for rabbits and mice. Chipmunks and woodchucks are adept at digging their own burrows. Trees may provide shelter for squirrels, raccoons, and opossums. Food set out for birds may attract many of these animals. Squirrels, chipmunks, and mice will readily eat birdseed. Raccoons will feed on suet. Woodchucks and rabbits will eat a variety of vegetation including garden vegetables and flowering plants. Deer are browsers and will nibble at trees, shrubs, hay, and grain.

    A few precautions can be taken to avoid unwanted encounters with these animals. Avoid setting out food that may attract scavengers such as raccoons. Keep garbage cans in a secure shed or garage or use metal cans that scavengers cannot chew through. Check the exterior of your house for loose or rotted boards that could allow access by mice or other rodents. Remember that these animals are wild, and if threatened they can bite. Raccoons can be particularly aggressive. All these species can carry diseases. Do not handle them.

    Laws vary from state to state on wildlife issues. If you have questions or concerns about wildlife, check with your state's Department of Natural Resources or Conservation Department before taking any action. Trees add beauty and so much more.

    In your backyard

    Trees in your backyard can be home to many different types of wildlife. Trees can also reduce your heating and cooling costs, help clean the air, add beauty and color, provide shelter from the wind and the sun, and add value to your home.


    Choosing a tree

    Choosing a tree should be a well thought-out decision. Tree planting can be a significant investment in money and time. Proper selection can provide you with years of enjoyment as well as significantly increase the value of your property. An inappropriate tree for your property can be a constant maintenance problem or even a hazard. Before you buy, take advantage of the abundant references on gardening at local libraries, universities, arboretums, parks where trees are identified, native plant and gardening clubs, and nurseries. Some questions to consider in selecting a tree include:

    1. What purpose will this tree serve? Trees can serve numerous landscape functions including beautification, screening of sights and sounds, shade and energy conservation, and wildlife habitat.

    2. Is the species appropriate for your area? Reliable nurseries will not sell plant material that is not suitable for your area. However, some mass marketers have trees and shrubs that are not winter hardy in the area sold. Even if a tree is hardy, it may not flower consistently from year to year at the limits of its useful range due to late spring freezes. If you are buying a tree for the spring flowers and fall fruits, this may be a consideration. In warmer climates, there may not be a long enough period of cool temperatures for some species, such as apples, to develop flowers. Apples and other species undergo vernalization--a period of near-freezing temperatures that cause changes in the plant, resulting in the production of flowers.

    Be aware of microclimates. Microclimates are very localized areas where weather conditions may vary from the norm. A very sheltered yard may support vegetation not normally adapted to the region. On the other hand, a north-facing slope may be significantly cooler or windier than surrounding areas and survival of normally adapted plants may be limited.

    Select trees native to your area. They will be more tolerant of local weather and soil conditions, enhance natural biodiversity in your neighborhood, and be more beneficial to wildlife than many non-native trees. Avoid exotic trees that can invade other areas, crowd out native plants, and harm natural ecosystems.

    3. How big will it get? When planting a small tree, it is often difficult to imagine that in 20 years it could be shading your entire yard. Unfortunately, many trees are planted and later removed when the tree grows beyond the dimensions of the property.

    4. What is the average life expectancy of the tree? Some trees can live for hundreds of years. Others are considered "short-lived" and may live for only 20 or 30 years. Many short-lived trees tend to be smaller ornamental species. Short-lived species should not necessarily be ruled out when considering plantings. They may have other desirable characteristics, such as size, shape, tolerance of shade, or fruit, that would be useful in the landscape. These species may also fill a void in a young landscape, and can be removed as other larger, longer-lived species mature.

    5. Does it have any particular ornamental value such as leaf color or flowers and fruits? Some species provide beautiful displays of color for short periods in the spring or fall. Other species may have foliage that is reddish or variegated and can add color in your landscaping year round.

    Trees bearing fruits or nuts can provide an excellent source of food for many species of wildlife. However, some people consider some fruit and nut bearing trees to be "dirty."

    6. Does it have any particular insect, disease, or other problem that may reduce its usefulness? Certain insects and diseases can be serious problems on some desirable species in some regions. Depending on the pest, control of the problem may be difficult and the pest may significantly reduce the attractiveness, if not the life expectancy, of the plant. Other species such as the silver maple (Acer saccharium) are known to have weak wood that is susceptible to damage in ice storms or heavy winds.

    7. How common is this species in your neighborhood or town? Some species are over-planted. Increasing the natural diversity will provide habitat for wildlife and help limit the opportunity for a single pest to destroy all plantings. An excellent example of this was the American elm (Ulmus americana). This lovely tree was widely planted throughout the United States. With the introduction of Dutch elm disease, thousands of communities lost all their street trees in only a few years.

    8. Is the tree evergreen or deciduous? Evergreen trees will provide cover and shade year round. They may also be more effective as a barrier for wind and noise. Deciduous trees will give you summer shade but allow the winter sun to shine in. This may be a consideration for where to place the tree in your yard.

    Placement of trees

    Proper placement of trees is critical for your enjoyment and their long-term survival. Check with local authorities about regulations pertaining to placement of trees. Some communities have ordinances restricting placement of trees within a specified distance of a street, sidewalk, streetlight, or other utilities.

    Before planting your tree, consider the tree's ultimate size. When the tree nears maturity, will it be too near your house or other structures? Be considerate of your neighbors. An evergreen tree planted on your north side may block the winter sun from your next door neighbor. Will it provide too much shade for your vegetable and flower gardens? Most vegetables and many flowers require considerable amounts of sun. If you intend to grow these plants, consider how the placement of trees will affect these gardens. Will it obstruct driveways or sidewalks? Will it cause problems for buried or overhead utilities?

    Planting a tree

    A properly planted and maintained tree will grow faster and live longer than one that is incorrectly planted. Trees can be planted almost any time of the year as long as the ground is not frozen. Late summer or early fall is the optimum time to plant trees in many areas. This gives the tree a chance to establish new roots before winter arrives and the ground freezes. When spring arrives, the tree is ready to grow. The second choice for planting is late winter or early spring. Planting in hot summer weather should be avoided. Planting in frozen soil during the winter is difficult and tough on tree roots. When the tree is dormant and the ground is frozen, there is no opportunity for the growth of new roots.

    Trees are purchased as container grown, balled and burlapped (B&B), and bare root. Generally, container grown are the easiest to plant and successfully establish in any season, including summer. With container grown stock, the plant has been growing in a container for a period of time. When planting container grown plants, little damage is done to the roots as the plant is transferred to the soil. Container grown trees range in size from very small plants in gallon pots up to large trees in huge pots. B&B plants frequently have been dug from a nursery, wrapped in burlap, and kept in the nursery for an additional period of time, giving the roots opportunity to regenerate. B&B plants can be quite large. Bare root trees are usually extremely small plants. Because there is no soil on the roots, they must be planted when they are dormant to avoid drying out. The roots must be kept moist until planted. Frequently, bare root trees are offered by seed and nursery mail order catalogs or in the wholesale trade. Many state operated nurseries and local conservation districts also sell bare root stock in bulk quantities for only a few cents per plant. Bare root plants usually are offered in the early spring and should be planted as soon as possible upon arrival.

    Carefully follow the planting instructions that come with your tree. If specific instructions are not available, follow these tips:

    1. BEFORE DIGGING, call your local utilities to identify the location of any underground utilities.

    2. Dig a hole twice as wide as, and slightly shallower than, the root ball. Roughen the sides and bottom of the hole with a pick or shovel so that roots can penetrate the soil.

    3. With a potted tree, gently remove the tree from the container. Lay the tree on its side with the container end near the planting hole. Hit the bottom and sides of the container until the root ball is loosened. If roots are growing in a circular pattern around the root ball, slice through the roots on a couple of sides of the root ball. With trees wrapped in burlap, remove the string or wire that holds the burlap to the root crown. It is unnecessary to completely remove the burlap. Plastic wraps must be completely removed. Gently separate circling roots on the root ball. Shorten exceptionally long roots, and guide the shortened roots downward and outward. Root tips die quickly when exposed to light and air, so don't waste time.

    4. Place the root ball in the hole. Leave the top of the root ball (where the roots end and the trunk begins) 1/2 to 1 inch above the surrounding soil, making sure not to cover it unless roots are exposed. For bare root plants, make a mound of soil in the middle of the hole and spread plant roots out evenly over mound. Do not set trees too deep. As you add soil to fill in around the tree, lightly tamp the soil to collapse air pockets, or add water to help settle the soil. Form a temporary water basin around the base of the tree to encourage water penetration, and water thoroughly after planting. A tree with a dry root ball cannot absorb water; if the root ball is extremely dry, allow water to trickle into the soil by placing the hose at the trunk of the tree.

    5. Mulch around the tree. A 3-foot diameter circle of mulch is common.

    6. Depending on the size of the tree and the site conditions, staking may be beneficial. Staking supports the tree until the roots are well established to properly anchor it. Staking should allow for some movement of the tree. After trees are established, remove all support wires. If these are not removed they can girdle the tree, cutting into the trunk and eventually killing the tree.

    Maintenance

    For the first year or two, especially after a week or so of especially hot or dry weather, watch your trees closely for signs of moisture stress. If you see leaf wilting or hard, caked soil, water the trees well and slowly enough to allow the water to soak in. This will encourage deep root growth. Keep the area under the trees mulched.

    Some species of evergreen trees may need protection against winter sun and wind. A thorough watering in the fall before the ground freezes is recommended. Spray solutions are available to help prevent drying of foliage during the winter.

    Fertilization is usually not needed for newly planted trees. Depending on soil and growing conditions, fertilizer may be beneficial at a later time.

    Young trees need protection against rodents, frost cracks, sunscald, and lawn mowers and weed whackers. Mice and rabbits frequently girdle small trees by chewing away the bark at snow level. Since the tissues that transport nutrients in the tree are located just under the bark, a girdled tree often dies in the spring when growth resumes. Weed whackers are also a common cause of girdling. Plastic guards are an inexpensive and easy control method. Frost cracking is caused by the sunny side of the tree expanding at a different rate than the colder shaded side. This can cause large splits in the trunk. Sunscald can occur when a young tree is suddenly moved from a shady spot into direct sun. Light colored tree wraps can be used to protect the trunk from sunscald.

    Pruning

    Usually, pruning is not needed on newly planted trees. As the tree grows, lower branches may be pruned to provide clearance above the ground, or to remove dead or damaged limbs or suckers that sprout from the trunk. Sometimes larger trees need pruning to allow more light to enter the canopy. Small branches can be removed easily with pruners. Large branches should be removed with a pruning saw. All cuts should be vertical. This will allow the tree to heal quickly without the use of sealants. Major pruning should be done in late winter or early spring. At this time the tree is more likely to "bleed" as sap is rising through the plant. This is actually healthy and will help prevent invasion by many disease organisms. Heavy pruning in the late summer or fall may reduce the tree's winter hardiness. Removal of large branches can be hazardous. If in doubt about your ability to prune properly, contact a professional with the proper equipment.

    Under no circumstance should trees be topped. Not only does this practice ruin the natural shape of the tree, but it increases susceptibility to diseases and results in very narrow crotch angles, the angle between the trunk and the side branch. Narrow crotch angles are weaker than wide ones and more susceptible to damage from wind and ice. If a large tree requires major reduction in height or size, contact a professionally trained arborist. There are other methods to selectively remove large branches without sacrificing the health or beauty of the tree.


    On the farm

    Windbreaks and tree plantings slow the wind and provide shelter and food for wildlife. Trees can shelter livestock and crops; they are used as barriers to slow winds that blow across large cropped fields and through farmsteads. Windbreaks can be beneficial in reducing blowing and drifting snow along roadways. Farmstead and field windbreaks and tree plantings are key components of a conservation system. They also help prevent dust particles from adding to smog over urban areas.



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