GARDENING IN IOWA

What to know when looking to replace canopy trees

From the Ground Up | Linn County Master Gardeners

A City of Cedar Rapids front loader clears a path from downed trees on Chandler Street SW in Cedar Rapids on Monday, Aug
A City of Cedar Rapids front loader clears a path from downed trees on Chandler Street SW in Cedar Rapids on Monday, Aug. 10, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
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The Cedar Rapids area lost all kinds of trees in the Aug. 10 derecho, but for now, lets focus on canopy (above 30 feet) and understory (less than 30 feet) trees that will bring diversity to your property and improve the habitat for pollinators and wildlife.

Here are some basics about planting trees in Iowa.

Q: How many trees should be planted?

A: A quarter-to-half-acre property can support 10 to 15 trees/shrubs for a healthy environment. Factor up for larger properties. One acre of healthy forest has between 40 to 60 trees.

Q: What is the best time to plant?

A: September/October and April/May are best. If you have major tree or soil damage, an aeration this fall will address compacted soil problems from the cleanup after the storm. Use the winter to plan what to plant and do your planting in the springtime.

Q: Is bigger better when buying?

A: No. Research has shown that trees planted from quart-size pots (1 1/2 to 3 feet in height) have less transplant shock, grow more quickly and catch up to the trees in larger pots within three years. If you’re anxious for quick results, consider planting some faster growing trees. (See below.)

Q: Do I need diversity?

A: Yes, have at least four to give different types of canopy and understory trees for a greater diversity of pollinators and butterflies.

Q: How do I plant the tree?

A: Follow the instructions closely, not just about how deep and the size of the hole, but where — not all trees are the same regarding soil, light and moisture.

Attracting pollinators

Here are some fast-growing trees that benefit pollinators.

• Birches (River/Paper) — 2 to 2.5 feet growth per year to 40 to 70 feet high — supports 216 pollinators

• Oaks (Pin/White) — 2.5 feet per year to 70 feet high — 275 pollinators

• Aspen (Quaking) — 2 to 3 feet per year to 80 feet — 204 pollinators

• Maples (Red) — 3 feet per year to 65 feet — 196 pollinators

• Willows (Weeping) — 3 to 8 feet per year to 40 feet — 228 pollinators

• Basswood (Linden) — 1.5 to 2 feet per year to 70 feet — 113 pollinators

Consider one of those as a replacement canopy tree.

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You can find more information about pollinators and trees at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources website at www.iowadnr.gov/Conservation/Forestry/Urban-Forestry/Resources-and-Links. You can order seedlings directly from the DNR at www.iowadnr.gov/Conservation/Forestry/State-Forest-Nursery.

The ISU Extension Office also has a publication that lists vital habitat for native pollinators. Contact Janice Savel at (319) 377-9839 or jsavel@iastate.edu to have a copy sent to you.

Call the Master Gardeners with questions at (319) 447-0647 or send your questions and photos to linncountymastergardener@gmail.com.

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