Margaret Lauterbach

Planting trees benefits us all, but make sure you know what works in our valley

The City of Trees could always use a few more, but make sure you know what you’re planting.
The City of Trees could always use a few more, but make sure you know what you’re planting. Statesman file

Planting trees is great for the planet and our area, since trees cast shade and convert carbon dioxide to the oxygen that sustains us and other vertebrates. If you have space for a shade tree, before you buy one please look at the recommended trees for our area at The guide is a pdf you can print.

That should steer you away from problem trees in our area, such as black locust (Robinia), some ash trees (I doubt that any Kimberly blue ash trees have survived the borers that sought them out) and perhaps others. I know that the enormous sycamores are subject to defoliating anthracnose, so they may not be recommended either. Some anecdotal evidence indicates sycamores may be allelopathic, or toxic to other plants like walnut trees. Those trees, too, have new enemies in our area. They’re calling this disease carried by walnut twig beetles “thousand cankers.”

If you’re wanting to plant a fruit tree, do some research on pollinators, disease vulnerability and how tall the tree would grow (standard 12 to 18 feet or taller; semi-dwarf 12 to 15 feet; or dwarf, 8 to 10 feet), and how many years to fruiting. Some standard apple trees take several years before setting fruit, but semi-dwarf usually takes fewer years and dwarf fruits the fewest.

If you’re planning on planting a stone fruit tree such as a peach, plum, nectarine or cherry, you can expect the tree to be fairly short-lived. It’s very difficult to prevent the peach tree borer from killing these trees, so most of us just grieve as we shrug and remove the dead tree, finding a spot for a replacement. Apple and pear trees are long-lived, but the fruits of both types are attacked by codling moth larvae. Their larvae even got into my white peaches for two or three seasons.

Many fruit trees provide more food for humans than a normal-sized family can consume. If you have extra fruit, you can dehydrate, freeze, ferment or can it, or if it’s in top condition, you could donate it to the foodbank. I had a huge crop of Gravenstein apples this year, some having been invaded by codling moth larvae. A friend suggested I offer extra apples to folks on Treasure Valley garden sites via Facebook. I did, met some nice people, and most of the crop did not go to waste. We had already canned more than a year’s worth of applesauce.

My fig tree/shrub – thicket, really – is in a sheltered nook on the south side of my house. I don’t know how many root systems are there, but I think there are two different varieties of figs represented, Lattarulla and Brown Turkey. Many folks in this area who grow figs grow them in containers that they roll into the garage for winter, then roll them back outside for spring and summer. Mine are just planted in soil, and for the first few years, I protected the roots from winter cold by piling bags of fallen leaves over the top of the stalks and stems. In some areas growers cut all of the roots on one side, lay the tree or shrub on its side and cover that with bags of leaves.

For the first time ever, we had breba (extra, early crop) figs ripen, and now there’s a large load of fruit set to ripen. Some say poking the “eye” with a sharp instrument, others prefer dabbing some olive oil on the eye to hasten ripening.

If you transplant your own tree or someone else does it for you, watch and make sure they remove the covering around the roots, burlap or plastic. Even the tie can ultimately strangle the tree unless it’s removed. This time of year you won’t find bare roots, I think, but watch out for circling roots in a container and tease them away from that pattern, cutting some roots if necessary. Also, be sure the tree’s flare, where the trunk adjoins the roots, is visible. If those roots are covered when planted or later, moisture trapped in the area can soften tree bark and permit disease and/or insects to penetrate the tree. Unless that flare is showing, your tree can die. If “professionals” plant it so the flare doesn’t show, make them pull it up and replant it properly.

Send garden questions to or Gardening, The Statesman, P.O. Box 40, Boise, ID 83707.