Tree planting and care

Choosing a tree or shrub can feel daunting, especially if you are a new gardener. There are hundreds of choices, but only some will thrive in your backyard environment and suit your personal preferences. Trees and shrubs are an investment in the future and a little planning can avoid problems in the long run.

Insects, disease and sapsuckers can damage trees but more often than not, it isn't the fault of the pest. This means that dealing with the pest won't necessarily solve the problem longterm. Many of these pests are there as an indicator of an already stressed tree.

Two very common tree stressors on the prairies are drought and improper planting techniques. Drought can be significantly improved by good mulching techniques. Improper planting is a major concern. You cannot just dig a hole and plunk your tree in it and expect to have a healthy tree. Planting issues tend to show up 3-10 years after planting so many people don't often realize they are to blame. We urge you to read the updated planting guidelines here before you start!

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Recommended trees

Trees beautify your outdoor space, provide habitat for birds and insects, improve curb appeal and even increase your property value.

The old saying "select the right tree for the right space" really holds true. Every plant has its own basic needs for light, moisture, soil and space. When one or more of those needs are not met, the plant will not thrive. The plant becomes stressed and in turn, stressed trees are far more susceptible to insect and disease problems. Deciding what tree to plant in your space is a big committment. You should never choose a tree lightly - they're meant to last generations.

We've featured some fantastic tress here. We also recommend you look at The Western Nursery Grower's Group Prairie Tested Trees for detailed information on more trees that grow well on the Prairies.

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Most plants are at their best when they're kept consistently moist. Trees are no exception. Trees tend to grow to the size their enviroment will support so it's very important that you do not frequently water* or fertilize your trees. Why? Because when you stop, they'll die back to whatever size the space can support. Our best recommendation to keep your trees consistently moist is to learn how to mulch. When you mulch, keep it a couple inches away from the bark of the trunk and no mulch volcanoes allowed!

*The one exception is in times of drought. If we're in drought, which we are now, make sure you water your trees at least a couple times a year.

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All newly planted trees and perennials need consistent water until they are established. We recommend mulch and ongoing care for about two years, reducing (but not eliminating) the extra watering during the second year. After that, keep the mulch and only water in times of drought. Below you'll find trees that are likely to flourish in a dry area once they're established.

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Recommended shrubs

Shrubs are a great way to deliniate space, control traffic, and add beauty and biodiversity to your yard. A good shrub will ask little maintenance and provide year long reward. A poor shrub will spread, require constant maintenance, and may be in such poor health that it becomes susceptible to insect or disease. The same is true with a good shrub planted in the wrong spot.

The biggest issue we tend to see with shrubs is that they're usually planted far too close together! Each individual shrub should be about one meter away from its neighbouring shrub, perhaps more depending on the shrub, or shrub health will suffer. Plants suffer quietly. Often this looks like poor autumn coloring, poor flowering, and susceptibility to insect and disease.

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Most plants are at their best when they're kept consistently moist and shrubs are no exception. Our best recommendation to keep your trees consistently moist is to learn how to mulch. When you mulch, keep it a couple inches away from the bark of the trunk and no mulch volcanoes allowed!

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Common problems

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Other Useful Websites

Canadian Forest Service Publications for catalogue of tree diseases and disorders

City of Saskatoon Tree Pests and Diseases

International Society of Arboriculture Tree Owner Information for detailed tree care information. The best are pulled below:

Iowa State Interactive Tree Identification Key note not all trees are hardy here but it should get you close

North Dakota State University Key to Diagnosing Tree Problems Using Injury Symptoms similar hardiness zones to Canadian Prairies

Northern Ontario Plant Database for a list of Northern Ontario Tree Descriptions

The Western Nursery Grower's Group Prairie Tested Trees for a list of tested, Prairie hardy tree cultivars

USDA: The Tree Owner's Manual - comprehensive information