Trees & Shrubs

(Question)

When is the best time to plant a tree in Owen Sound, spring or fall? It will probable be an Acer saccharinum, Silver Maple.
Thank you.

(Answer)

Silver maple (Acer saccharinum) is a large tree, native to south central Ontario, and can grow as much as 35m tall and with a 100cm diameter trunk.  It is fast growing, prefers moist soil and can tolerate some shade. It is not a tree for a small property, and should be planted well away from structures. I can tell you from experience (I live in the old city of Toronto) with the magnificent 90 odd year old silver maple in the front, they break into the old terracotta pipes (also 90 years old, but who’s counting?) and clog them to the point one must dig up the pipes and lay new PVC pipes. It is expensive. Even so, I love that tree and all the ones still left on my street. They are grand.

As they age, however, they become susceptible to heart rot, which hollows out the tree over time. If you see carpenter ants climbing up and down an old tree, they are attracted to the sawdust like interior for their nests. They do not cause it, but they use it.

As was evident during the December 2013 storm, silver maple are one of the weaker maple trees.  Especially the old trees with heart rot, limbs were broken and smashed by the ice, and did cause damage to power lines, cars, homes and fences. Another reason to keep this lovely tree from structures. Proper maintenance from a licensed arborist, is recommended.

As for your question, either season would work, though the usual thought is planting in spring when the ground becomes workable. Be sure that the tree is planted to the same depth as in the pot or if bare root, where the soil line is. If your tree is ball and burlap, make sure the wires are removed, the twine is removed and the burlap is at least torn in places for root growth. Dig a hole twice the size of the root ball, add some compost, spread the roots as best as you can. Tamp the replaced soil with your feet. Water well. Water weekly for the next two years, especially if the tree is not planted in its preferred moist soil. If it’s a small tree, it can be staked at three sides. Larger trees, not as much needed, unless it’s a windy spot.