Landscaping alternatives include methods such as xeriscaping or planting trees in clusters. Xeriscaping is a landscaping and planting technique that minimizes or eliminates the use of water. Maintenance requirements are very little, and plants that thrive with little water tend to have longer lifespans. Tree clusters intercept rainfall and increase infiltration. They also provide shade for homes, but be careful to plant away from overhead wires.
- Identify conditions on your property such as sun, shade, wind exposure and sloped areas that have an effect on your water usage.
- Choose a planting location in accordance with the size of the full-grown tree. Large trees can be overpowering on a small property. Trees should enhance the look of a building and not overshadow or block windows.
- Do not plant tall trees close to overhead utility lines.
- Locate large deciduous trees on the southeast, southwest and west sides of your property to provide optimal shade in the summer without blocking the low winter sun.
- To block cold winter winds, plant an evergreen windbreak along the north side of your property.
- Do not plant willows or poplars near underground piping, as their roots spread to seek water and can plug water and sewer pipes.
- Group low water-using plants separate from high water-using plants. Plants with low water consumption should compose a minimum of 60% of your landscape. High water-consuming plants should cover no more than 10%.
- Improve your soil to promote infiltration, aeration and greater water-holding capacity. Amend sandy soils with compost to prevent nutrient and water loss. Clay soils should be amended with coarse sand and compost.
- Limit lawn areas to a functional size. Replace grass with drought tolerant ground covers or mixed borders.
- Choose native plants since they are adapted to the climate conditions. In hot, dry areas with south and west exposure, use plants that require minimal water. Along north and east-facing slopes and walls, choose plants that like more moisture. You can find a list of native plants here.
- Separate low, moderate and high water-use zones, and irrigate independently. To reduce evaporation, water plants early in the morning.
- Layer your soil with mulch to reduce evaporation, maintain constant soil temperature, reduce erosion, and limit weed growth.
Plant deciduous trees in the spring as soon as the frost is out of the ground or in the fall, from leaf-fall until freeze-up. Poplars, willows, ash, elms, and birches tend to overwinter better if planted in the spring.
Evergreens can be planted early in the spring until four weeks after deciduous trees have opened their leaves or in the fall, from about the first week of August to the end of October.
- Minimize stress to your trees:
- Protect your tree well during transport to avoid bruising the bark and breaking twigs, branches, and buds.
- Pad the tree trunk and branches with burlap and tie all loose ends with soft rope or twine.
- Keep the root ball moist and cover exposed bare roots with wet burlap or moss.
- Cover tree crowns with wet burlap to prevent drying of the tops, especially evergreen. Keep the tree in a shady location until it is time to plant.
- Prepare the planting spot:
- Remove grass, weeds and ground cover (turf) within a 50-cm radius of the planting hole. These plants compete with the tress for water and nutrients.
- Dig the hole at least twice as wide as the container or root ball (to accommodate the entire root system), and to the depth of the root ball.
- Roughen the sides and bottom of the hole to allow root penetration.
- If good quality soil is not available, break up the turf taken from the top and put it in the hole around the root ball, where it will break down into good rooting soil. You can also add peat or loam to improve this mixture.
- Soil in the hole should be moist, not too wet or too dry.
- A cone-shaped mound of soil at the bottom of the hole is advised for bare-root trees. This will allow the roots to develop downward and outward into the surrounding soil.
- Prepare your trees for root growth:
- Bare root: Loosen the roots with a spray of water and straighten them to prevent doubling-under, crowding and crossing. Do not expose the roots to direct sunlight or drying winds for more than a minute to avoid damaging the fine root hairs.
- Container: Trees should be kept in the container until the last possible moment before planting.
- Burlapped: Trees wrapped in burlap should not be soaked prior to planting. There is no need to remove the burlap; just loosen it and it will soon rot away. In cool and dry soil conditions, it may be preferable to remove the burlap rather than leaving it to slowly decompose. Roots circling the outside of the root ball should be clipped, and roots matted on the bottom should be cut off.
- Plant your tree with care:
- Bare-root: The root crown is set on the mound and the roots spread over and down the sides of the mound. Refill the hole with good quality soil, gently raising and lowering the tree while filling to eliminate air pockets.
- Burlapped/Container: Plant the tree so that the top of the root ball is flush with the top of the hole. Fill the hole in and around the root ball with good quality soil or soil removed from the hole. Tamp the soil and allow the hole to drain. Finish filling the hole with soil and make a ridge of soil around the root ball to direct water towards the roots. Water applied beyond the root ball is not available to the tree until roots grow into the native soil. If soil settles after a few days of watering, additional soil may be required to refill the planting hole.
- Turf areas should be watered deeply and less often to encourage deep root growth and should be mowed high with the clippings left on the surface for added nutrients.
- Compost should be used to fertilize gardens.
- During the first growing season, plants should be watered deeply once a week, depending on the weather. After the initial growing season, plants should only be watered as needed.
- Watering: If your soil is more sandy, soak the tree two to four hours twice a week for the first two to three months and weekly thereafter for the first year. The roots must not be allowed to dry out. Peat moss mixed with sandy soils at the time of planting will improve water retention capacity. During the second year, water twice a month during the late spring and summer. If your soil contains a lot of clay, and water tends to puddle around the tree, lighter watering is recommended to prevent flooding and to ensure that the roots receive enough oxygen to permit growth. Additional watering of evergreens, prior to freeze-up will minimize the detrimental effects of winter drying.
- Fertilizing: Fertilizer helps trees thrive and resist drought, disease, and insects. High phosphorus fertilizers are recommended at planting time to promote root growth. Later on, higher nitrogen fertilizers can be greatest from May through July. Fast-acting fertilizer is best applied in spring so that the new growth it stimulates has time to mature by winter.
- Staking: Staking trees larger than 1 meter is recommended as it prevents dislodging by wind, people, and animals. Make sure the stake ties do not cause damage to the bark. The stakes should be removed after two or three growing seasons.
- Pruning: Prune at planting simply to improve branch spacing and promote a strong structure in the tree. Annual pruning should be started when the trees are young in order to train them to the desired shape.