Cardinal Rules for Planting Trees


Sizes and Sites: Do not plant large maturing trees near power lines or buildings but at least ten feet away from the latter.  Similarly, another site to avoid is a runway for an airport.  Inevitably, later you would have to top (mutilate) them, an unnecessary waste of time and money.

You will also avoid a fight with the Utilities who may see fit to remove a mature healthy tree to "maintain uninterrupted service".  In the Philadelphia area, fortunately, they are doing a fine job with their 'natural directional pruning'.  They have made huge changes in the way they treat trees.  I.e.,  the professionals who professionally prune trees near utility lines.

In the city, also, consider that trees planted too deep and with less than eight feet between curb and sidewalk tend to crack the sidewalk. Make sure you know the space required for the roots of the tree to be planted. (Ref. John Collins, Temple University, Ambler , PA.) In fact cities are tree prisons.  They used to plant trees along roads and streets in a single file for the sole purpose of having something to tie their horses to. If. I say if, you do plant trees in cities, only plant trees in clusters or groups.  When we plant single soldiers we take away the group defense system.  Then they blame insects, fungi and a whole list of other actual tree associates (friends), for the decline of the trees.  Insects do not kill trees.  The problems with understanding micros is that they do the research in a lab with 1 year old saplings (see Researcher points at bottom of page).  Come on, really.  Big difference between that and a group of highly ordered trees.




A particular tree that was once commonly seen in open spaces is the Weeping Beech. Planted in open spaces and left alone, the lower branches will come down, knuckle the ground and then go up again. Single trees are aesthetically pleasing just as clusters are which have the added benefit of low maintenance costs since they tend to help each other. And at the edges you could plant wild flowers.

Would you believe that old rotten logs can actually enhance the landscape? They act as big sponges, provide moisture during dry spells and flowers and ferns planted in them can look very nice.

It is important to check the roots before buying a tree or a shrub. If only a few roots are crushed prune them straight across with a sharp tool (as if cutting a garden hose). Do not plant trees with many wounds or damaged branches or with V-crotches.

Remember, You want to prepare a PLANTING SITE , not just a hole. Form a dish-like area, loosen the soil and remove the grass far beyond the drip line. It will be harmful to do it after the tree has taken roots. But to repeat, trees and grass don't grow well together. Leave room for future growth. Another point to remember is, as studies at the State U. of North Carolina have shown, that there is no need to fertilize at planting time and don't overdose in the future with Nitrogen. Plant the tree at the depth where the roots are coming off and not where the burlap is. Do not prune the crown to balance it with the roots. Brace only if the tree will not remain upright in a moderate wind. DO NOT USE WIRE IN A HOSE, but brace with CAMB GUARDS (we provide free samples). Mulch with composted materials about 3-4" thick out to the drip line. Avoid touching the tree trunk with composted materials. Do not use fresh chips. Keep the soil moist to the depth of the roots, out to the drip line but not water logged. Prune dead and decaying branches, but wait for the second growing season for shaping and organic fertilization.


Researcher Points 

Some researchers would rather look for it than find it.

The researcher took all the legs off a flea. He then shouted to the flea to jump.  The flea just lay there.  The report stated that fleas lose their ability to hear when you remove their legs.  Don't laugh.  We have seen research reports worse than that. 

A successful business person once told us that researchers have all the answers but they don't know the questions. 

Why do some researchers delight in marching to near or distant drummers?  Marching is a war thing mostly.  We need more dances in research. 

Some people get the tree business and the business of trees confused. 

Conflict of interest is becoming a serious problem in science where researchers benefit by saying very positive things about certain products.  Chemical companies also pay to build buildings on college campus's and then they expect favors, though, in return.

What I am trying to say is -

Tree systems are like families.  Families are made in ways that the members are connected in such highly ordered ways that high quality survival is ensured for all.

Too often cause and effect get mixed up.

Myths start with a false premise

Some people will buy products they do not understand and not buy books that will give them understanding.

What I am trying to say "If natural systems had not worked so well before we got here, we would never have gotten here."

Too often cause and effect get mixed up.


95/08/05  Edited 2019/12/25


John A. Keslick Jr.

Tree Biologist

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