Everyone seems to want to get their hands dirty sowing, weeding and tending crops of lovely flowers or healthy veggies. Among the plethora of information available online and in print, you’ll read a great deal about annuals and perennials, shade lovers and sun worshippers. But what about the ultimate gardening adventure: planting a tree? Here are three popular types of trees which are commonly grown from saplings.
Red maple is an excellent tree for homeowners to grow. First of all, it is attractive with bright green leaves that turn brilliant shades of red, orange or yellow in the autumn. The easygoing maple thrives in diverse conditions, especially on the East Coast, from Florida up to the Canadian border. If you change your mind about its placement on your grounds at any stage, red maple is easy to transplant. Within a relatively short time, your maple will grow from a newly planted sapling to a tall tree. The shade it provides will make your yard a very pleasant place to be, even on a hot summer day; it can also help reduce air conditioning costs by sheltering your home from the sun. Just don’t expect a harvest of organic maple syrup – that comes from the red maple’s cousin, the sugar maple. Sugar maples are also handsome, sturdy trees, with the added advantage of their sweet-tooth-pleasing potential. However, planting these slow growers will benefit your grandchildren more than yourself.
Pine trees are popular for their year-round evergreen good looks. Planted in your front yard, a pine can serve as an eco-friendly living Christmas tree, perhaps decorated with garlands of popcorn (unsalted!) and dried berries to feed your hungry local birds. For Westerners, ponderosa pine (sapling shown right) is a great choice. This conifer can be readily transplanted during the early years of its life. Make sure that you permit the sunshine-loving ponderosa plenty of room for growth, though, because given the right conditions, it can eventually reach a towering height of 180 feet. In the southern United States, the quickly growing loblolly pine is prized for its shade-giving and wind-blocking properties. The white pine, the tallest pine species, flourishes in the central to northern regions of the country.
For many gardeners, reaping a crop of organic produce is the ultimate goal. While pears, peaches (shown right), plums and cherries may be grown in certain areas of the country, apple trees come in the largest variety, with species suitable to each of the climate zones in the US. Apple trees should be exposed to plenty of sun and fertilized sparingly to limit foliage growth. Regular pruning will ensure proper air circulation, a strong framework and continued productivity.
Dwarf trees have two advantages for the home garden: they will be ready to bear fruit within four years, as opposed to standard trees which take up to eight years to mature, and they require less “elbow room.” Be aware, though, that for most types of fruit tree to yield, you must supply a source of cross pollination nearby that will come into blossom at the same time. Use pest control methods free of dangerous chemicals, such as spraying with neem oil or bagging the fruit before it ripens. In addition to the satisfaction of allowing you to eat your own homegrown apples, your trees will offer a source of pesticide-free food for the endangered honey bee, who’ll return the favor by carrying pollen on its body to another blossom.
Related stories on MNN:
- The best trees for urban (and suburban) yards
- 18 trees with beautiful bark
- 17 easy-to-start seeds for beginner gardeners
- How to garden in dry shade