Husker Hort

A Nebraska View of Horticulture

Cottonwood Park Tree Planting

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The planting crew

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the next best time is now.  Fall is great because you don’t have to worry quite so much about making sure there is adequate water because the ground will freeze soon and the deciduous trees are starting to go dormant and won’t use as much water compared to during the growing season.

The Village of Wolbach was the recipient of a 2016 ReTree Nebraska Grant which provided the Village with 10 trees.  On Saturday, October 22nd the trees were planted in Cottonwood Park in Wolbach with the help from several volunteers.


Two 4-H members helping with the digging.

The volunteers just thought they were coming to help dig holes, but they found out way more than that.  In addition to learning how to dig a proper hole for a tree, wider instead of deeper,  they were taught about proper tree placement.  They learned why the trees were placed in their specific locations and things to consider when placing a tree, like power lines, structures, and soil types.  They  also learned that a majority of the trees roots are in the top 18″ of the soil and can extend out 2-3 times the height of the tree, which can also be an important factor when placing a tree.

Species diversity was also discussed.  A majority of the trees in the park are, you guessed it, cottonwoods.  While our state trees is a fast growing tree, it won’t have the longevity of some of the slower growing trees.  The goal should be to have no more than 10% of the landscape be made up of any one species.  By adding species diversity within the landscape, a single disease or insect is not able to wipe out the entire landscape.  With help from the grant, the park now has swamp white oak, chinkapin oak, Niobrara paper birch, American linden, sycamore, Kentucky coffeetree, and a Turkish filbert.

Volunteers also learned about the newest production & staking techniques.  The grow bags and air pruning ‘pots’ were some of the newest production techniques that they saw.  These systems help the tree to make a fibrous root system and decreases circling roots.  One volunteer was amazed by the root mass some of the trees had for their size.


Similar system to what we used. Photo courtesy the Royal Horticultural Society

We used the single stake method to help support the trees.  With this method, the top of the trunk is allowed to move, but the bottom of the trunk by the root ball is secured to a single stake.  Rubber tubing was used to secure the tree to the stake.  These supports will remain on the tree for the duration of the winter.  Hopefully come spring, the trees will be rooted enough to remove the stakes, if not they will come off next fall.  The supports should only be left on the tree for one year to allow the tree to get roots establish.  After that time, it is up to the roots to keep the tree upright.

Water is very important to newly planted trees.  A rule of thumb is 1 gallon of water/ 1″ of trunk diameter everyday for 2 weeks, then every other day for 2 weeks.  These trees were no bigger than 1″ in diameter so I said shoot for 1 gallon of water per day.  The watering technique is a little unique.  Because of limited time, money, and man power, we installed a bucket system for the trees.  The buckets were placed next to the trees and have a 1/8″ hole drilled about 1″ from the bottom.  It will take about a minute to fill the bucket, but about 20 minutes for it to drain, ensuring a slow soak.  There are similar systems that are available for purchase, but this system was the right price.

It took a little hard work, but these trees will be providing shade in the park in no time.


The shovel may be bigger than him, but D.C. was a huge help.

Author: Elizabeth Exstrom

A Nebraska Extension Educator out of Hall County with a focus in horticulture and sustainable landscapes.

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