When to plant free trees?

Colorado Springs, CO(Zone 6a)

Hi guys,
Haven't been posting much...super busy with holiday travel and the end of the school term. But I've been reading and keeping up with y'all , just am always too late to post on a tangent by the time I finally catch up!

So, I got my stack of free 10 trees from Arbor Day Foundation today...and they say to plant them now, but I am having a hard time believing them. Really? With all this cold weather and snow we've been having? ( It's the tree mix which includes one of each: Sugar Maple, White Pine, Blue Spruce, River Birch, Silver Maple, Northern Red Oak, Pin Oal, Red Maple, Flowering Dogwood, Eastern Redbud)The trees are dormant, but I'm just scared to kill them. I also purchased a Japanese Maple, Mugo Pine, and a Hydrangea which came this week. Should I go ahead and plant them too?
Also if you remember, these trees are mostly for my big hill in back - so it would be a really harsh environment with no protection if I planted them in their permanent spot- so a more protected, nursery planting is also an option if you think that'd be better.
Any advice you have would be appreciated.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Yes, plant them if you can. Actually, if you can't, plant them in a big flower pot. The weather is perfect for planting trees, but I am having trouble with my soil freezing. I planted 4 eremus lilies yesterday and watered them in well. When I went out today to plant some crocus among them, the soil was frozen like a brick. I found some dry soil where I ended up planting the crocus, but anything that is wet here is hard as a rock even during the day. Check yours and see if you can make a hole. If not, plant them in large pots -- the kind that came from the nursery with plants in them are perfect and free, if you saved any.
The idea with trees and shrubs is to get them in the ground and wet them down. When the days are warm enough the roots will grow and they don't have to support a bunch of leaves with food and water during the winter so they can concentrate on root growth now to support the leaves that will come out in the spring.
Now don't take it personally if some of those trees die. Several of them do not like our soil and/or climate -- particularly Dogwood.
And ask vadap about silver maple. He has one, but it has a tough time and is always dropping branches. It "prefers deep, moist, acid sites". Soil in the rockies is generally alkaline, but it obviously grows for vadap.
"The Pin Oak grows in acidic, loamy, moist, rich, sandy, well drained, wet, clay soils." I grew up with these trees in Louisiana but they grow in swamps. This one will need lots of water and organic matter and may still not survive the Rockies. I have never seen one out this way.
River birch loves stream banks so you will need to water it a lot. It also doesn't like very alkaline soils. I am not sure how alkaline yours is, but is probably somewhat alkaline -- but maybe not enough to discourage this tree. I have seen it growing along streams in New Mexico.
White pine also prefers acidic, wet soil. May not tolerate the west. Ponderosa will do very well in your area, also pinon pine.
Blue spruce -- a winner in your area. The good news is that with care this tree will probably eventually almost fill the area of your hillside so you will hardly need any others. They grow about 1 ft. per year around here and are very much at home in our soils and altitude. Do water it fairly often the first year. Blue spruces generally grow at higher altitudes where it rains more than at lower ones, but with a little bit of extra water this tree should thrive for you.
Sugar Maple -- This one could work for you and if it does, it will be a magnificent tree. It doesn't want soil that is too alkaline but will take some alkalinity. It probably wants more water than many trees you might grow:
"Tolerates shade, likes a well-drained, moderately moist, fertile soil. Do not plant in confined areas or where salt is a problem. Grows to 60' to 75', 40'-50' spread. (zones 3-8)"
There are species of sugar maple that tolerate the alkaline soils of the Southwest -- like the Canyon maple and the John Pair Select Caddo Sugar Maple. Don't know which kind you have, but it is a very good tree, much better than the silver maple. Be sure to water it and put compost on it.
Red maple -- same as above. Great tree if you can get it to grow.
Eastern redbud -- I have seen it growing happily in the West -- and according to the Arbor Society it grows in a variety of soils. So you are in luck.
Mugo pines -- are commonly seen in Los Alamos and Santa Fe and should do well for you, but my personal experience is that they like to be fussed over the first year -- water, compost, etc.
As for Japanese maples and hydrangeas, it depends on which one. There are cultivars of both which grow in the west and cultivars of both which don't . A lot will depend on which cultivar you bought. I have a hydrangea Annabelle which is doing very well and two others which are alive, but that's about it.
Actually if all the trees and shrubs that hate our climate and soil that you ordered, the rest would eventually fill your space on the hillside -- it will take time. I wish you luck. You will have a lot of fun with these, but this is definitely the right time of year to plant them. If only one or two live you will have learned something.
BTW, have discovered your online journal. Great work!
betty

Colorado Springs, CO(Zone 6a)

Betty thank you so much for all the detailed information. I really appreciate it, because now I have confidence to go ahead and plant them today. We're supposed to get into the 50s today, which is a treat.

I had figured since this was their standard tree mix that they send to anyone in the country that not all the trees would work here. I am dissappointed about the dogwood though, I was most excited about it, the Redbud and the Sugar Maple. We'll see though, nothing lost if they don't all make it. Is there anyway I can amend the soil to make it more acidic around the trees?

I didn't realize how *small* my little urban lot is until I tried to plan for 10 trees that for the most part will have 40' spreads...lol. I'd be ok if not all of them made it actually. But any tree is better than the cottonwoods I used to have here. :)
I planted a Red Maple 'Autumn Flame' this past summer and it is doing well. When we had a few weird warm days in November though it started to bloom, so I hope that doesn't ruin it. This one is supposed to have amazing fall color.

I have really enjoyed keeping up with my journal here, it really helps with keeping records. I also use the blog here, which I mainly use to track my progress of my landscaping around my house. So it's fun!
Thanks again for your help Betty.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Yes, you have enough trees for a veritable forest even if most of them die. the blue spruce is probably all you need, but the red bud makes a nice small tree and the Autumn Flame Maple looks like it has already made it. Most articles say they like acid soil, but Kenton always said that we don't try enough of the things that are "not supposed to grow here". I do see beautiful maples here in Los Alamos, here and there, but don't know how to find out which varieties they are.
I think most of your trees will want some extra water, especially the maples. To make the soil more acid, try organic material of almost any kind. Manure, leaves, pine needles, and something you can buy rather inexpensively -- alfalfa pellets. If you see one of your trees looking chlorotic -- yellow with leaf veins green, you can always drill holes in the soil and fill them with cottonseed meal -- called vertical fertilization. Trees love cottonseed meal which is very acid and full of nitrogen.
But, our local county agent says that in a battle between a plant and soil, the soil always wins. But I think you will have a nice experiment going on your hill and luckily, just one or two of these trees will cover the whole thing.
Glad you are getting started right away. Do run out and pour water on them in the winter if it gets dry and windy. It is really important the first year. They don't need a swamp but they need to be moist.
I, too, use the blog and the journal. They are a great help for my feeble mind and also for people I want to trade with to see what I have to trade.
By the way, if you feel the need for another tree -- I recommend you try the bald cypress that Kenton found growing in a yard in Grand Junction. They are a long lived and beautiful tree and have some form of leaves year round. And they aren't supposed to grow in our area, but they always do. So does the giant sequoia with enough water.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Just found this on maple "Autumn Flame" growing. Thought you might enjoy this and find it useful. BTW, this says, they can tolerate soil up to 7.5 which is fairly alkaline.
http://www.backyardgardener.com/plantname/pd_9f05.html

Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7b)

Art, I looked at getting the 10 trees from the Arbor Foundation last Spring too. I didn't do it because I couldn't find the group of trees that I wanted and that would work here, and because I couldn't plant 10 and didn't want to waste 7 or 8 of them. I also really liked the Dogwood but decided not to battle the opposite conditions between what it wanted and what I had.

To add to Betty's post, in researching these trees I found the Silver Maple is nicknamed "carcrusher" because of its tendency to drop branches even after it gets large. Be careful where you plant it if you do. They are listed as growing to 80' high and appear to be almost as wide.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Just as Vadap. He has one and hates it. My feeling is that if it will grow for you let it stay, ( Don't park under it, but it didn't look to me like there was any parking on your hill anyhow. ) and when the Blue Spruce, Red Bud and Autumn Flame, and possible Sugar Maple get big, cut down the Silver Maple and give the space to a stronger tree. In the meanwhile, it will have made leaves for you to compost, some shade and will have held your soil wile you are waiting on the others. This will be interesting for me. I am eager to see how the Autumn Flame and Sugar Maple do for you. Someday, I would like a small maple for the fall color.

Denver Metro Area, CO(Zone 5a)

Redbud needs a protected spot (maybe near the fence, away from strong winds)...at least in our climate. This one is our favorite!

Ennis, MT(Zone 4a)

When our trees were small here in our very windy area I placed straw bales to protect the evergreens from the wind, which helped. Evergreens are active all year, so they need water all year. In this dry climate without a lot of snow cover, I still water our evergreens once a month all winter and they are doing well.

The mugho pines remain in fencing cages because the deer here absolutely adore eating them. The deer do not bother the spruce trees.

Colorado Springs, CO(Zone 6a)

Thanks for all the help guys. Dparsons and Betty, I grew up with a Silver Maple in my front yard and remember my mom's curses at it, so I am pretty sure I am not going to plant it. Although I like your scenario about it growing for shade and erosion control... I suppose it couldn't hurt. I also think I am not going to plant the River Birch and White Pine, from all that I have researched. Those are for sure a losing battle. I think I'll put them up on craigslis for free, or something.
I got everyone else in the ground yesterday. What beautiful weather we had this weekend- today up to 65. The redbud is in my back bed closest to the house(with fences on two sides, thanks Diane); the sugar maple opposite the Autumn Flame on the house level, the dogwood on the first level of terracing so I can baby it, and the blue spruce, red oak, and 2 red maples (one comes free when you order anything) on the upper level terrace nearest to the fence that backs up to a relatively busy road. I'm hoping that one or more of them work out for noise and wind block for my house. That would be really great. Mugo, hydrangea, and Japanese maple all went in the front yard. Oh yea and DH decorated our existing front yard Blue Spruce like a Christmas tree today :-)
Haha..productive weekend, I feel!

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Sounds like you did great. Wise to give away the white pine and river birch. We have a big storm coming tonight. I bet you do, too. A little snow on the trees will help them settle in permanently, now. Good you got everything in the ground and you can enjoy your Christmas Blue Spruce this season!
Can't wait for your next article.

Colorado Springs, CO(Zone 6a)

Supposed to blow in at about 3 today- 3-10". Hoping for a snow day! :) When I planted the trees, I got some not-yet-melted snow from shady areas and put it around in the water basin. Hopefully that helped a little too. I am just so glad to have them in. I'm so excited for spring to see if they bud out. Thanks for all your help!

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

We got it yesterday art_n_garden. At least 6 inchs. Wooo Hooo!

Colorado Springs, CO(Zone 6a)

Yay, bring it on! It just has to start at exactly the right time...too early and it will melt as to not affect school tomorrow, too late and we'll already be here. lol!

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Ah, I remember the days of wishing for snow days at school. I will keep my finger crossed for you art. Congratulations on getting 6 inches in Calgary. We are supposed to get snow here today and tonight, but it doesn't look like it in the sky. But maybe there are more clouds just on the west of the mountains -- so we can't see them yet. It is very dry here and all my entire yard needs moisture.

Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7b)

It was cloudy and spritzing rain here this morning. We probably won't be cold enough for snow but we are getting moisture.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Alas, not a drop of anything in Los Alamos. We sure need it. Don't care whether it is rain or snow, just need moisture.

Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7b)

Thought maybe so. I checked the weather.com and the clouds are pretty low. Maybe they are too low for you pajarito, going around your mountain instead of over it.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

Weather googleguys says 30% rain and tomorrow 30% snow for you. I will do a rain dance to pump up your odds. Interesting it says 'rain' but its supposedly 22F. hmmm chunky rain maybe?

Wait this one is way better. Let's pick this one http://www.theweathernetwork.com/weather/usnm0179

Colorado Springs, CO(Zone 6a)

Lol, brrrrrrr. That makes ME want to snow. ;)

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

It is brrrsome but very prettful ^_^

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Oh dahlia, your picture of Calgary is very beautiful. Your forecast is less than optimistic, but so far correct. We are getting little drops of rain? snow? . I see their wet marks on the sidewalk. But I love their unfortunately, accurate comments for precip "Less than I mm." and "Close to1 mm."
Dparsons is right, the clouds are low and are probably spreading around the mountains that are between us and the storm. But apparently the pile of clouds is getting deeper all the time and a few are starting to flow over the top of our mountains -- hence the slight bit of moisture.
Thank you for the rain dance. Maybe if you keep going we will get the predicted 2-4 inches tomorrow. DH would love it. They might have work start 2 hrs. late.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

LOl it's dark now. I hope you saw it when it was light paj.

Colorado Springs, CO(Zone 6a)

Very gorgeous, and really cool website! We have had almost couple inches in the past 4 hours-started about 3. Coming down pretty steadily still. They say it will get worse at midnight. Hmmmm? Snow day maaaybe? I don't normally wish a day off of work so bad, but it's the second to last week of the semester so the kids have checked out and it is difficult to be effective at this point. lol, and I wanna sleep in!!

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

ooooo and to wake up to see all that luvly moisture. I'm voting for a sleep in day ^_^ They are predicting that we will actually have normal precipitation this winter here. After years of drought this is going to be outstanding. As much as I luv my garden I'm really thinking of the farmers to the east and south.

Colorado Springs, CO(Zone 6a)

Guess who had a snowwww daaaaay? We ended up having one the next day. :) It was wonderful because I live so far away from where my district is that the roads were fine in my neck of the woods, so I went shopping. We are having a wet one so far this year. They are thinking snow days on Monday and Tuesday too. I like it!

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Oh, you are lucky, art. We have had a few small snow storms 1 inch, one 3 inch, but no schools have closed or even started late. And we really need the moisture. We are supposed to get more tonight -- but it hasn't started yet.

Dolores, CO(Zone 5b)

Snowing like crazy here in SW Colorado! Makes me glad husband and I have a sort of a "stock up" mentality! We've probably gotten about 4" so far, and it's coming down pretty steady... wooooo hoooooo!

Brenda

Ennis, MT(Zone 4a)

Snowy here. Windy yesterday, so windy it blew a part off the pickup when I was driving it. One of the little grill thingies behind the hood by the wiper blades just flew off. Never have seen that happen before. I had to stop and go find it in a snowdrift with the temp at zero.

Less wind this morning but it is fifteen below. Nasty weather.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Yes, we had high winds and snow all night long to the point where it woke me up several times. We are having slightly less today, but it is supposed to snow and blow all day. I won't be gardening outside today, but I do have some indoor gardening chores and plan to get into cooking while DH goes to Santa Fe for theater readings and tryouts.

Dolores, CO(Zone 5b)

Wo, that is some serious wind, mulchmania! Stay warm, everyone!

Brenda

Colorado Springs, CO(Zone 6a)

Yowza, we're all getting it! We had about 2" overnight, supposed to have a lot more. It was 3 degree this morning. Seems a lot colder, earlier than normal. I am loving the moisture and SO glad I got those trees in the ground. I have been sitting with Park's catalog all morning :) Dangerous...

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Ahhh, this is the time of year for plant catalogs and for cooking and reading. I have been looking up and bookmarking new healthy recipes as the wind roars outside. But it is bright and sunshiny now. I think we got some snow last night but it has largely blown away. The lilies I have left to plant will go in 1 gal. containers as soon as I can thaw out the potting soil.
I am glad I got in as many plants as I did.

Colorado Springs, CO(Zone 6a)

You were sure busy with all the fall planting you did. I'm proud of you, lol I'm sure that means a lot to you. :)
Speaking of cooking, I spent the rest of the afternoon cooking and freezing soups. I made a butternut squash soup and some parmesan potato soup. Yum yum. Have you explored allrecipes.com ? I love it, you should check it out if not. Recipes are reviewed and reviewers can offer additions/suggestions- so you can find so many good recipes there.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

I like allrecipes.com and also recipezaar.com and also epicurious.com. What did I do before the internet was invented? I spent this afternoon copying some African vegetable stew recipes.
I do feel good about the fall planting I did. Just wish I had done more.

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