Forests Ontario

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What Makes a Good Tree?

Posted: April 12, 2019

Tips for Spring Planting in Eastern Ontario

We can all agree that trees add value to our properties, to our lives and to our local ecosystems. They shade us and shield us from strong winds; they provide habitat for wildlife, they clean our air and water, and they help to reduce the negative effects of climate change. So now that spring has finally sprung, what better way to celebrate than to dust off the shovel and plant some trees!

But what should you know before setting out for the tree nursery? According to Cheyene Brunet, a Forest Technician at South Nation Conservation Authority (SNC), a good tree is a balanced tree. “You want to make sure that the roots and the tree itself are in proportion,” says Cheyene. “If the roots are too long, the seedling can be hard to handle, and it can be easily damaged as a result. If the roots are too short for the tree, the tree won’t be able to access all the water and the nutrients that it needs to grow.”

“It’s also a good idea to check for substantial damage to the roots, the buds and the stem of the tree,” Cheyene explains. For Oaks, Hickories, Juglans and hard pines (like Red Pine) there should be a taproot that goes straight down and smaller, fibrous roots coming off it. On the other hand, species like Spruces, Maples and White Pines should have well-spread fibrous root systems. Well-formed buds mean that the tree will be ready to grow when you plant it. “You’re looking for overall structure. Don’t worry about small imperfections, which are simply a part of nature, but do check for rodent damage and significant breakage.”

As for appropriate tree species, Cheyene says that, “The South Nation Watershed varies in it’s conditions, but the soil is mostly clay-based, agricultural soil. For this reason, White pine, Red maple, Sugar maple, Oak and Black walnut trees tend to do well.” But don’t worry if you’re unsure which species to plant on your property; Cheyene says that a good tree nursery will have knowledgeable staff on-hand to guide you. Cheyene also emphasizes the importance of choosing native or non-invasive trees because, “invasive species will can out-compete the native plants and disrupt the local ecosystems.”

“The most important thing for inexperienced tree planters to remember is to take their time,” Cheyene advises. “Be gentle with the tree’s structures and ask for help if you’re unsure about something. SNC has a lot of resources on our website and you can reach out to us if you have questions.”

As for where to purchase trees, Cheyene recommends Ferguson Tree Nursery. “South Nation Conservation Authority buys saplings from Ferguson Tree Nursery in Kemptville. They grow high quality native and non-invasive trees, and they are very well priced. The staff are really knowledgeable, so if you’re new to planting they’re an ideal choice.” SNC services a 4384 km² area of Eastern Ontario that includes Embrun, Limoges, St. Albert, Jessup Falls, Chesterville, Spencerville and Morrisburg. SNC works with Forests Ontario to deliver the Government of Ontario’s 50 Million Tree Program in the South Nation Watershed.


About Forests Ontario

Forests Ontario is a not-for-profit charity dedicated to re-greening the province through the support of forest restoration, stewardship, education and awareness. We promote Canada’s greatest natural resource – our forests – because healthy forests sustain healthy communities and healthy economies. Forests Ontario is the voice of our forests. Visit or follow us @Forests_Ontario to find out more.

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Jeannette Holder

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Forests Ontario
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