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Tips on Planting and Caring for Your Trees: An Interview with Lee Gilman of Lee Gilman & Associates, LLC

By Lee Gilman

Tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

Lee Gilman & Associates, LLC specializes in developing and implementing interdisciplinary, plant health care programs that improve the health and longevity of trees and woody landscape plants. Our work extends into other aspects of horticulture, agriculture, forestry, ecology, and landscape design.

We provide commercial and residential clients access to on-site assessments and management using the latest standards of care and best management practices (BMPs) performed by a Board Certified Master Arborist, Qualified Tree Risk Assessor, and New Hampshire Certified Arborist. Using a consultative approach, we provide a broad range of science-based plant management strategies to address our client's goals.

Our services create more aesthetically pleasing outdoor living spaces by: transforming ungraded nursery stock into specimen landscape forms, identifying and correcting underlying plant health conditions, integrating woodland edges into the landscape environment, and improving vistas. Other benefits may include reductions in rodent and tick populations that effect the health of people, plants, and pets.

What are some of the most popular trees that homeowners in New Hampshire are planting now?

  • Fruit bearing trees, (Apple, Pear, Peach, Cherry)
  • Flowering Crabapple (Malus spp.),
  • Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)
  • Sargent Cherry (Prunus sargentii),
  • Fringe Tree (Chionanthus virginicus),
  • Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis),
  • Japanese Tree Lilac (Syringa reticulata),
  • Common Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida),
  • Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa),
  • Shadblow Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis).

Can you briefly explain the basic steps to successfully plant new trees in your yard?

  1. Start by selecting high-grade trees that are well adapted to the site conditions where they will be placed.
  2. Plant trees at a depth where their first primary buttress roots can be seen separating from the trunk flare before they disappear into the soil.
  3. Put as much effort into preparing the planting sites and improving soil fertility as in purchasing the trees.
  4. Add and maintain a three to four inch deep layer of organic compost and mulch on the soil surface around the tree in a manner that keeps it away from the trunk tissue.
  5. Water root balls thoroughly every two to three days during heat or drought for the first summer or two.

How does the soil figure into optimum tree health?

Water and nutrients are two of the four requirements for plant growth. Soil is responsible for providing most of the water and nutrients that trees require. Their availability is largely dependent on soil texture, organic matter content, and pH. The "top soil" is often highly altered in built-environments like a modern landscape. Its horticultural suitability should not be taken for granted and compaction should be avoided. Soil testing and prescriptive fertility treatments are recommended by ANSI standards to improve plant performance.

What do you recommend for the proper care of trees that have just been planted through maturity?

Professional care while young will usually extend the life of landscape trees and reduce their maintenance requirements later in life. When trees are newly installed, it is best to ensure that optimal growing conditions simulating their natural environment have been recreated. Watering consistently and frequently is the most important. As soon as young trees become established, they should be pruned to establish a strong, well spaced, and divergent permanent branching structure. As trees mature, maintaining a stable environment around them becomes most important and the pruning of live branches should be minimized.

What advice do you have for people in New Hampshire who want to plant trees that aren't native to the environment or naturally live in a pretty different environment?

Trees that aren't native to an area often do not support the local food web and ecosystem. While there are places for exotic plants, if our landscapes are not substantially comprised of native trees, overall species diversity and ecosystem functions will be reduced. Exotic trees from similar latitudes may be adapted to our local environmental conditions. However, if trees adapted to different growing conditions are planted here, they would be under unnecessary environmental stress that could affect their performance.

What's the best way for people to contact you and your company?

Lee Gilman & Associates, LLC can be reached by phone at 603-249-5042 or on the web at www.leegilmanassociates.com.

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About The Author

Entering college as a forestry major, Lee's work included the performance of plants as...

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