We are right in the middle of the best tree planting season there is, and that means it’s time to start planning for that crazy summer heat, including planting trees to shade us! A good shade tree will go very far in keeping your cooling bills down, but often nurseries will sell us weaker trees that will cause problems later, with the promise of a tall tree, fast.
Obviously, you want something quick, so as not to be exacerbated by the heat, but you want something strong that will last a while. Unfortunately, most fast growing trees are also very WEAK and more disease prone than slow growing “legacy” trees.
Here’s the good news - With PROPER planning and care, you can have both a healthy tree with fewer problems, and long lasting shade, even with the weakest of trees
Here are a few things you can do with these fast growing “weak” trees that will help you enjoy your fast-growing tree, and the benefits they provide:
1. It may be a temporary solution. Planting a fast-growing tree about 15-20 ft. of the longer lasting tree is a great solution! They won’t compete all that much as young trees, and while you’ll get shade fast, all will not be lost after the weaker tree has passed!
2. Prune out the weaknesses! When planting a weak tree, understand that it very well might have a weak structure! Pruning using proper weight reduction techniques, and structural training the tree will ensure that even if you have a a Bradford pear, that it’s less likely to split on you!
3. Keep your tree healthy! I can’t say this one enough! Trees are like you and I; when we’re healthy, we tend to get sick less. Likewise, healthy trees will stay healthy!
4. Get to the “root of the problem!” It is estimated that 85%-90% of tree health issues start with poor soil quality! Soil is a very complicated subject, and the requirements of healthy soil vary based on what type of soil you have! Mulch is going to be your best long term friend here as it will upgrade the health of the soil, and therefore the tree. When trees are sick, the first thing your Arborist should be checking is the quality of the soil!
5. Fertilize! If you live in an urban or suburban environment, chances are REALLY good that you have a soil that is completely void of nutrients, which means a starving tree! Proper nutrient intake is critical to you and I being healthy, but it’s also key to your tree’s health!
6. Water APPROPRIATELY! Watering alone is not enough. You must water in a way that is both appropriate for YOUR particular species of trees. Be smart about your watering and adjust it to be functional for your unique species of tree!
Here’s a few trees that work well as fast growing trees:
1. Sycamore – Also called an American Planetree, Sycamores tend to get sick more frequently than most. All that aside, they will up to 6’ of growth per year in a healthy year, and have a beautiful white and gray bark with orang-ish accents that adds aesthetic value to any landscape!
2. Aristocrat Pear – Notice I did not say “Bradford Pear!” Aristocrat pears are the updated and improved “2.0” version of the Bradford pear. Aristocrat Pears are much more structurally sound, and you get the fast growing benefits of Bradford pears.
3. Weeping Willow - Weeping willows are EXTREMELY fast-growing tree, putting out up to 8’ of growth per year! While there are several hybrid varieties more suitable to drier growing conditions, most willow trees need a TON of water, which is why you often see them on river banks. Keep them WELL-watered, and you will have a great tree for at least 20 years!
4. Red Oak/Pin Oak – make absolutely sure that you don’t confuse the two. Red oaks are not pin oaks, and pin oaks are not red oaks. Red oaks are adapted to more alkaline (clay usually) soils, and pin oaks do better in a more acidic (usually sand) soil, however both will give you great shade, and grow up to 4’ in a year early on!
5. Red or Silver Maple – Along with providing a ton of shade, both trees put on a brilliant display of colors in the in the fall! You should get about 3-5’ of growth each year, and get a nice 40’-50’ tree at maturity. They both love a more acidic and moist soil though, so make sure growing conditions are right, and you will have a great tree for many years!
There you have it, don’t listen to the neigh-sayers … just because a tree grows at a fast rate doesn’t mean that you have to have a terrible tree that will cause you countless issues! Be smart about your fast growing tree selection, and you are sure to get the desired shade you’re looking for AND have a great tree for many years!