Anonymous asks :
How big a tree should I buy to plant in my yard?
A. Size matters.
I like to plant trees in the 2" to 2 ½" range (this is the diameter of the trunk about 6" above the top of the root ball). Trees of this size tend to have a very high transplanting success rate, they look like something to begin with (as compared to a 1" tree), plus they adapt to their new locations very quickly, usually within 2-3 years.
Larger trees can be transplanted but with a bit more difficulty, and with the larger ones you'll probably need a professional to do the job for you. Dirt is heavy - a 3 foot diameter root ball only a couple feet high can weigh an easy 700 pounds, so this is probably not something you want to try to take home in the back of your station wagon or van (assuming you could lift it up to begin with!). It's better to let someone bring it and plant it for you in this case.
This is not to say that you shouldn't consider planting larger trees. It's done all the time and with very good success -- you'll just need professional help. Trees upward of 10" diameter can be readily moved with large digging machines called tree-spades, which dig a huge cone-shaped root ball with the tree in the middle. Voila! Instant tree!
One word of caution - the larger the tree, the longer it is in transplant shock and the longer it takes to adapt to its new home. Trees can lose 80% or more of their root system when they get transplanted, so you can see why they're in shock. Larger trees can take 5-10 years to re-adapt and require extra care during this time, especially in the first few years after the transplanting.
Before having large trees planted in your yard, be sure to get instructions on how to care for them properly and follow through. This could make or break the success of the project.
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