Every year, the staff of the Chisago Soil & Water Conservation District spends three days in the “tree barn”, the Quonset building where people come to pick up the trees and shrubs they ordered.  Throughout the distribution event, we get asked some common questions.  With the 2016 Tree and Shrub order form out, we thought it might help to address some of these questions before you order.
What trees are best for sandy soil?
Most of the evergreens will do alright on sand, but the best choice is red pine.  All trees will most likely require watering the first year to get established on dry sandy soils.  The most successful hardwoods for sandy soil include silver and red maple, white oak, and hybrid poplar.
What should I plant for birds and wildlife?
Evergreens provide winter cover for birds.  Some species, such as white cedar and pines, also provide seeds that some animals eat.  Hardwoods that provide a food source for wildlife include oaks, common chokecherry, red splendor crabapple, and American plum.  Some of the best wildlife plants are shrubs.  Black chokeberry, rosa rugose, redosier dogwood, juneberry, and Nanking cherry are all great sources of food for wildlife.
Which trees have the best fall color?
The maples are hard to beat in the fall color department, especially red maple and sugar maple.  They can turn yellow, orange, or red.  Silver maple will turn a bright yellow.  An often overlooked option for outstanding and unique fall color is tamarack. It is our only deciduous evergreen and turns brilliant golden yellow in the fall before losing its needles.  Some other yellow options include birch, basswood, willow, and poplar.  Shrubs often have red or purple fall color that can be very striking.  The only non-evergreen species on the order form that won’t turn colors in the fall is the common lilac.
What grows the fastest?
The easy answer is hybrid poplar, but they are also short-lived.  You’ll see these trees planted as windbreaks, reaching 70-90 feet tall in as little as 10-15 years.  If you choose to plant these, we recommend inter-planting with another species to take the poplar’s place when they start to die off.  Other fast growing deciduous trees include silver maple and red maple, river birch, flame willow, and common chokecherry.  The fastest growing evergreens are Norway spruce, red and white pine, and tamarack.
If we didn’t cover your tree question, check out the back of the 2016 Tree and Shrub order form, available for download at www.chisagoswcd.org, for a quick overview of each tree or shrub, or call the office at 651-674-2333.  We are taking orders for the 2016 season.