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Kinds of trees to plant to help environment

Marnie Asked

What trees are beneficial to plant in KY? I want to plant some for shade for my horses, but not invasive ones, ones that will help the environment.

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The Gardener’s Answer

Hi, Marnie:  Trees are beneficial to the environment in many ways. Not only are they helpful in terms of improving air and water quality, they provide habitat for animals and are aesthetically pleasing as well. Before planting, you may want to have your soil tested and amended if necessary. This can be done through your County Cooperative Extension Service. Contact the Taylor County horticulture/agriculture agent(s) at (270) 465-4511 for instructions on having your soil tested. The results will give recommendations for improving soil if necessary.

It is always a good idea to consider limitations before planting any tree. It sounds like yours will be in open pastures but still take mature size into consideration. Planting a variety of  larger shade trees both evergreen and deciduous will provide year-round interest and shade for your horses. Choosing native, disease resistant trees will get you started in right direction. The following are large, native options that will do well in our climate:

Sweet Gum, Liquidambar styraciflua

Tulip Poplar, Liriodendron tulipifera

American Beech, Fagus grandifolia

Sycamore, Plantanus occidentalis

Virginia Pine, Pinus virginiana

For a more complete list of native trees visit: https://www.uky.edu/hort/Native-Trees-of-Kentucky. I did not list any Oaks or Maples although they are great choices, the aspca website lists them as toxic to horses.

Visit your local garden centers/nurseries to see what they have or will have in stock. If you want them to install the trees it is a good time to get on the list. Spring is just around the corner. Proper planting is just as important as plant choice. If you have the trees installed by a professional you will likely get a guarantee for a certain period of time. If you are going to plant them yourself, be sure to dig the holes just as deep as what they are currently growing in. Avoid planting too deep or too shallow. The hole should be twice as wide as the size of the rootball. Backfill with existing soil and add a 2-3 inch layer of mulch around the base of the tree. The mulch should not come into contact with the trunk. Mulching will help retain moisture that is essential for root establishment. Newly planted trees require 1-2 inches of water per week during the growing season. If Mother Nature does not provide, you will need a water source. Happy planting!

Angie Oakley

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