The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

April 26, 2013

Bare-root planting recommended for trees; Arbor Day observance goes on despite weather

By Debby Woodin

— Forestry experts recommend returning to bare-root planting for trees.

Rob McGovern, a vegetation management coordinator with Empire District Electric Co., said that cleaning the dirt off tree roots and trimming the large roots will result in a sturdier tree at maturity. McGovern demonstrated the bare-root planting technique on Friday at an Arbor Day observance that went on at Parr Hill Park despite a chilly rain.

When planting a container-grown tree, McGovern recommends washing the roots off and digging a four-inch deep hole. The bare roots should be spread out in a loose arrangement before covering with dirt.

McGovern demonstrated small trees with roots that curved downward or wrapped around the base of the trunk or the rootball. He said the curve of those roots needs to be cut off so that the root is straight. Circling or downward curved roots choke off the air and water supply to the tree.

A tree McGovern planted four years ago without trimming the roots has died of that condition along with rabbit damage, he said.

The result of bare-root planting is a healthier tree because the roots can more easily search out water and air, he said. A healthier trunk and limbs will allow a tree to bend in high winds rather than falling over, he said.

“You’re going back to the old way of planting in the 1800s,” said Jon Skinner, an urban forester with the Missouri Department of Conservation, before trees were bought in containers.

Empire, the state Conservation Department and the city of Joplin sponsored the Arbor Day celebration, and gave away trees and shrubs.

Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean read a proclamation declaring an Arbor Day observance in Joplin. Skinner recognized the city for its designation as a Tree City USA and Empire District as a Tree Line USA utility by the Arbor Day Foundation.

The designations are made based on efforts to keep trees and plant new ones, and efforts to educate people on the value of trees.

“The city has done a good job of re-establishing the tree canopy since the tornado,” Skinner said. Those efforts to earn and maintain its Tree City designation include the appointment of a tree board to recommend tree standards for the city and allocating money to plant tree.

City Manager Mark Rohr last year set a goal to plant 20,000 trees within three years and this year increased the goal to 25,000, saying that 8,700 trees were planted in the first year of the effort.

Empire’s recognition as a Tree Line USA utility also is based on using best practices in trimming and preserving trees, worker training and tree-based energy conservation efforts.

“Empire has endeavored to earn that recognition and has been doing so quite well,” Skinner said. He presented Colbert-Kean and Martin Penning, vice president of operations at Empire, with Arbor Day plaques.

Julie Maus, with Empire District, said the utility’s education efforts are important because “(electrical) outages are preventable if we get people in the mindset of planting the right tree in the right place.”

Trees, lines

Information about selecting and planting trees in relation to power lines is available at