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From the Ground Up: How to select the right tree for enjoyment, utility

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By Judy Stevens, correspondent

Selecting a tree for your yard can be a daunting task and a choice you may have to live with as long as the tree is alive and you own the property.

There are lots of resources for selecting the right tree such as Trees Forever, Department of Natural Resources, and Iowa State University Extension Service. Check out all of their easy to use websites, but in the meanwhile, here are a few points to consider while selecting a tree.

If you are planting several trees or a large area, don’t plant more than 10 percent of a single species. We have learned our lesson on needing more diversity in our plant choices when we over planted ash trees and are now suffering the consequences of the Emerald Ash Borer.

If you have an ash tree on your property now you may want to consider your choice of a replacement tree or plant another tree nearby in the event that you will have to remove the ash tree.

When selecting a tree for the west or east side of your home, consider one of the many heavy shade trees such as oak or maple. A shade tree strategically placed can cut your cooling costs as much as 20 percent as well as offer shade for a deck, which will be used much more if it is shaded from the hot afternoon sun.

We have been fortunate in the last few years in not having had a citywide storm, which can take down dozens of trees, but if you did suffer a loss of a large tree, it can change the entire landscape of your yard. You may want to consider replacing the tree or trees with a fast growing tree such as a poplar or willow and a slower growing but sturdier tree such as an oak or gingo.

When trees are young they should be pruned to become more wind resistant by allowing the wind to travel through the tree. The tree should also be pruned to create a strong leader and have all crossed branches removed.

If you now have a tree that you had tree wrap or a corrugated pipe around the trunk for the winter it should be removed for the summer. The bark of the tree needs the sun to harden and could possibly suffer mold and fungus growth under the wraps of the winter and deer protection. The protective measures can be replaced in the fall.

Happy tree shopping. You will be amazed at the selections available.

l For gardening questions, call the Linn County Extension Master Gardener Hortline at (319) 447-0647.

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