Extension News

Tree Planting on Acreages

Tree Ready to Plant

Note to media editors:

Yard and Garden Column for the Week Beginning March 11.


By Paul Wray
Extension Forester
Iowa State University

For years, the major rural home sites were associated with farms, but the trend to small acreages continues to grow and expand. These home sites often range from one half to several acres and will often benefit from the addition of woody vegetation.

Trees for acreages include ornamental and shade trees close to the home site, windbreaks and screens for both visual and environmental protection, plantings for wildlife habitat improvement, plantings to help conserve the soil and water resources, and other conservation plantings.

Woody plant landscaping is often the first item of concern for an acreage owner. Because of the desire to plant larger plant material, special selections or cultivars, most landowners use their local landscape nurseries for the plant material. This plant material is often large bare-root stock, potted, container grown, balled-and-burlap planting stock or tree spade material.

The major advantage of these types of plant materials for home planting is the establishment of larger stock, less transplant shock and greater control of the specific plant characteristics desired by the homeowner. Most of these plant materials also can be planted from spring through fall. Landscape plants should be watered during their first year of establishment.

For the other tree planting objectives, smaller plant material can often be use for establishment. Common bare-root stock used for plantings are seedlings, transplants and modified plug/transplant material. Seedlings are the least expensive, and simply are plants grown in the nursery for a year or longer, dug from the nursery and supplied to the homeowner.

Transplant plant materials are seedlings that are replanted at a nursery, grown for another period of time and again dug and marketed as bare-root plants. The major advantage of a transplant is a significantly larger root system. A third type of plant material commonly in the market, especially with some of the conifers, is the "plug +" plant types. Most of these consist of plant material that is first produced as small container plants from seed. These plants then are field planted for a period of time and then dug and marketed as bare-root plug + plants. Most seedlings and transplants are not provided additional water. They would benefit from the additional care, but it is often not practical because of the number of plants planted and the cost of the plant material is low enough that the watering cost is not justified.

Bare-root plant material is designed for spring planting. Spring planting provides the entire growing season for the plant to develop new roots and occupy its growing site. Planting too late in the spring or early summer does not allow sufficient time for root growth and expansion before hot and dry weather. In a few cases, if the site is very wet, fall planting may be feasible and necessary. Conifers are never good candidates for bare-root fall planting. For more information on planting bare-root plant material, see http://www.ag.iastate.edu/departments/forestry/ext/plntseedl.html.

Landscape plant materials are available from many sources in Iowa, as well as from mail order nurseries. Iowa sources of bare-root stock are somewhat limited, with a smaller number of nurseries providing the stock as well as the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Forest Nursery.

The private nurseries producing bare-root plant material in Iowa include: Cascade Nursery, Cascade; Ecolotree, North Liberty; Horaks Nursery, Swisher; Kelly's Tree Farm, Clarence; and McGinnis Tree and Seed Co, Glenwood. The Iowa DNR State Nursery, with growing facilities in Ames and Montrose, offers a variety of seedling materials and packages. Some of the packages for acreage owners are: General Wildlife Packet, Songbird Packet, Turkey Packet, and Pheasant and Quail Packet. For more information on bare-root nurseries, see http://www.iowadnr.com/forestry/catalog.html.


Contacts :

Paul Wray, Forestry, (515) 294-1168, phw@iastate.edu

Jean McGuire, Continuing Education and Communication Services, (515) 294-7033, jmcguire@iastate.edu

Editors: Two color photos, suitable for publication, are available. 

TreePlant.jpg (696K): Local landscape nurseries offer tree buyers bare-root, potted, container grown or balled-and-burlap plants.

TreePackage.jpg (236K): Seedlings are plants grown in the nursery for a year or longer, dug from the nursery and supplied to the homeowner.