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What Do I Need To Plant A Young Birch Tree?

by Dan Mckinney

If you're planning on purchasing a young birch tree from a nursery, such as Moon Valley Nurseries , to plant in your yard, you need to be properly prepared. Homeowners love birch trees because of their distinctive bark pattern and delicate foliage, but they do require some specialized care. What do you need to properly plant a birch tree in your yard?

  1. Good soil. Birch trees need well-drained, but still moist soil. The ground where you plant the tree should be shaded for the better portion of the day. However, the foliage should be able to receive plenty of sun. Look for a place where the ground is shaded down low and open to sunlight higher up. Dry soil is not suitable for birches. If you think your soil is too dry, you'll need to commit to a frequent watering routine for the lifespan of your birch, or you'll need to choose a different tree, 
  2. Willingness to perform routine maintenance. Birches are not "plant it and leave it alone" trees. They need frequent monitoring, especially when they newly planted. If you're looking for a low maintenance tree, talk to the staff at the nursery for a more suitable option. Trees that require less maintenance but still offer variation and beauty include Burr Oak and Emerald Queen Maples. 
  3. Mulch. Directly after planting your new tree, you should mulch over the planting area. Mulch helps to keep the delicate root system from overheating and it will keep the soil moist as your tree becomes established. Wood-based mulch (like chips or bark pieces) will also help to foster ideal soil acidity for birch trees.
  4. Insecticides. You should get spray on treatment to protect new leaves from leaf miners, which prematurely brown the foliage. More importantly, spray on applications for birches should include protection against bronze birch borers, which will systematically kill the tree. Young or weak trees are especially susceptible to attack. 
  5. Basic knowledge of birches. Understanding your birch tree will help you notice problems early. For example, if you know that birches should only yellow in the fall before the leaves drop, you'll notice premature yellowing of the leaves. Often, leave yellowing is a sign of pH imbalance or an early indication of pest infestation. When birches start to lose leaves and die at the top of the tree, the bronze leaf borers have begun their attack. Some trees can be saved from an early death is you know what trouble signs to look for. 
  6. Fertilizer. Fertilizer can help your birch's shallow root system gain strength during its early life. However, you should talk to your landscape specialist before applying any fertilizer. Fertilizer can help provide the nutrients lacking in the soil, but if you are not lacking any, over-fertilization is a possibility. It's ideal to have your soil tested before planting so you have the chance to properly prepare the site with needed nutrients. Low nitrogen fertilizer with added sulphur is the best type of fertilizer for birches -- the sulphur improves soil acidity and the potassium (which is higher in low-nitrogen fertilizers) helps to replenish the most-likely missing nutrient. 
  7. The information of a pruning professional. Because bronze leaf borers attack weakened trees, resist the temptation to prune your tree yourself. If you feel the branches are becoming to large or cumbersome, talk with a tree pruning professional. Generally, DIY pruning weakens the tree significantly because it is often done incorrectly, with homeowners cutting in the wrong places and cutting off too much foliage at once. Each cut creates an entry point for infection.

A birch tree is a beautiful addition to your landscape, but only if you start with the right soil and tree care. Talk to a local nursery about whether a birch is right for you.