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Dogwood Planting Guide

By planting a tree for a friend or family member, you can bestow a wonderful gift that will take root and grow. In Virginia -- where the dogwood is the state flower -- as on much of its native East Coast, its white and pink flowers are a much-loved harbinger of spring.

How To Choose A Dogwood
When deciding what kind of tree to plant, consider the conditions of the spot where you're planning to plant it. The dogwood is especially well suited to the shade garden in which Martha has chosen to plant it (in nature, this dogwood grows in the dappled light created by other, larger deciduous trees along the woodland edge). The soil is organic, friable, and fairly consistently moist, all of which are good conditions for the dogwood.

Make sure the tree you choose has a firm, moist root ball. If the root ball is loose, the roots may have been damaged. Likewise, avoid trees with broken branches. And choose a tree without blemishes. When handling the tree, always pick it up by the root ball as opposed to the trunk.

How To Plant A Dogwood
1. Dig a hole for the tree, using a tarp to hold the topsoil and subsoil you dig up. This will protect the grass near the tree and help to reserve the soil to refill the hole. The depth of the hole you dig should equal the depth of the root ball, and the diameter should be just a bit wider than its diameter.

2. Carefully place the ball in the hole. Position the tree so that its best side is the most visible. The top of the root ball should be level with the level of the soil of the area surrounding the tree. This is crucial, since the roots will dry out if the hole isn't deep enough and the root-ball ends up positioned too high. If the hole is too deep and the root ball sits too low in the soil, however, the roots will suffocate and the tree will die.

3. Cut open all the lacing securing the burlap to the root ball. If any of it is left tied up, it may damage the tree's roots or trunk as they grow. If the material wrapped around the root ball is made from plastic, remove it completely from the tree. You can determine whether it's natural or man-made by holding a match or lighter to it. Plastic will melt; burlap will burn.

4. Water the well around the root ball, then fill in with reserved topsoil. Give it a good tamping with your foot so that the root ball is firmly anchored. Make a small circular well the diameter of the spread of the tree's branches for future watering. Water every week during the tree's first summer.

Removing Wrapping Tip
There are two schools of thought regarding whether to remove the wrapping if it is made of natural fiber. Martha is an advocate of removing the burlap encasing the root ball. But make sure you never remove it until the tree is in the hole. Some growers believe it's best to leave the burlap in the hole, since rocking the root ball to remove the burlap increases the chances of damaging the roots.



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