Jill of All Trades: Tree trimming and planting

- This week, our Jill of all Trades, Jill Washburn, walks us through tree trimming and planting. Fall is a great time to do both, and Jill offers up a couple of life hacks that are pure genius.

First, Jill shows us a tree with storm damage that needs to be cut back. You shouldn't just hack it off anywhere, though. Jill shows us how to follow the branch back to the last crotch. It's a natural spot to make the cut for a healthy and better-looking tree. Cuts like this can be done in one fell swoop with a pair of loppers and a little upper body strength (OK, maybe more than a little).

If you've got bigger, thicker branches that need to be trimmed, a tree saw is in order. If you don't have one, or you don't have the time or patience to cut it by hand, Jill says that a reciprocating saw (known as a Sawzall) will make short work of it. Usually used for demo-ing and remodeling houses, a Sawzall equipped with a blade that has larger teeth will cut through a good size branch in seconds. Again, cutting in the right place is critical. Jill shows us how to leave the "collar" on the branch so that the tree can heal itself faster. That'll help your tree fight off disease or infestations. Keep the Sawzall handy!  We're going to use it again for planting trees.

Before we do that, though, Jill takes us through the easiest tree trimming. That's taking the suckers of off tree trunks before they grow into bigger problems. Often, these can be taken off with small hand pruners. Cut as close to the trunk as you can. The smaller they are when you take them off, the better. Left unchecked, they look messy and they steal valuable resources from your tree. Without them, your tree can funnel its resources into healthy growth.

Now, on to planting. Jill tells us that you need to "dig a dollar hole for a nickel tree", meaning you need to make the hole bigger than just the root ball. Sometimes, though, that's not possible because roots of other trees or shrubs might be in the way. Grab the Sawzall! Jill sticks the blade down into the earth and cuts a circle around the hole. That will cut through any roots that are in your way and you can plant away. Before you put the tree in, make sure you put plenty of water in the hole, especially is your soil is sandy or dry. Then put your tree in and backfill the hole. If you're planting on a slope, Jill says to leave a little ridge of soil on the downhill side of the hole to help trap rain water that will flow down the slope.
Jill's best trick of all comes in after the tree is planted. If you're concerned that your newly planted tree might not get enough water, grab a trio of old wine bottles, fill them with water, and place them upside down around the root ball of your tree. They will drip feed the roots, as needed.  

You can watch Jill demonstrate all of these tips by clicking the video player above.

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