Trees are an important part of our urban landscapes. They increase our quality of life by providing shade, enhance aesthetics and increase property values. They help temper the "heat island" effect of hard surfaces, and they improve water and air quality by filtering pollutants. It would be hard to imagine our cities and towns without them.
If you have been considering adding one or more trees to your urban property, August is a good time to plan for this. If you start planning now, you can note the conditions of your yard when any existing trees are fully leafed out. It is hard to visualize your summertime yard in the late fall or early spring, which are the seasons when most gardeners plant trees.
Trees require a major and long-term investment of money, time and effort; adequate planning and research on your part can contribute greatly to their success. Listed below are steps you can take to ensure success with your urban trees.
? Choose the location first. It is easier to find a tree to fit a location than it is to find a location to fit a tree; after all, your yard may not have an ideal location for the particular tree that you want. Also, keep in mind the location of any obstacles in your yard, such as transformers, overhead power lines and underground utilities.
For appropriate trees to plant under or near power lines, go to www.mge.com/images/pdf/brochures/community/powerplanting.pdf. Also, remember to call Diggers Hotline at 800-242-8511 at least three days before any digging. Other site characteristics to note are the amount and intensity of sun and shade, whether the site is well-drained or droughty, and the soil type (a soil test is advised; you can find out how to take and submit soil samples at http://portage.uwex.edu/horticulture/soil-testing.
? Choose the tree. Because you now know the site characteristics of your chosen location, your search for the right tree already has been narrowed. Consider only those trees that meet your site criteria. For example, if your chosen site's soil is dry sand and it is located under a power line, don't try to force a katsura tree (which needs a well-drained, rich and moist soil, and grows to 60 feet) to live there. It won't grow well, and you won't be happy with its performance or the required maintenance. A better idea is to plant a hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) or a smoke tree (Cotinus obovatus); both of these trees will be better able to grow well in the dry soil and will fit under a power line.
There are many appropriate choices for harsh urban sites; go to www.midwestlandscapeplants.org/search.cfm to search on trees for specific sites. After choosing a tree, research purchasing options. If your choice is a tree common to the area, you may be able to buy it locally in the spring. However, if your choice is an unusual one, your best option is to order it from a reputable specialist nursery.