Editor’s note: Get Growing, written by the La Plata County Extension Office’s Master Gardener Program, appears during the growing season. It features timely tips and suggestions for your garden and landscape.
By Ayla Moore
If you are old enough to remember all of the names of the Brady Bunch as well as their birth order, you should be old enough to remember flare jeans. And flares are making a big comeback. Well, maybe not in pants, but certainly in trees, especially when planting.
It turns out that the majority of plant problems come from the first moment we stick them in the ground, and trees are no exception. Consider the story I heard in my master gardener class of the man whose 10-year-old tree, a Mother’s Day present to his wife, was suffering from dieback.
Every year, it got worse until that tree finally died. When he dug it up to see what had happened, he found that the wire cage used to hold the tree’s root ball at the nursery had never been removed. It took 10 years for that tree to die from a problem that began when it was first put into the hole.
Which brings us to flares, specifically tree flares. This is the base of the tree trunk right above the root ball that flares out slightly, and it is important. In fact, tree flares are the point where the tree begins to root, and roots need oxygen.
If a tree is planted too deeply and its root flares are not visible from the surface level, then those roots will suffer from limited oxygen and may be more vulnerable to insect infestation or other problems.
In our clay soil, oxygen is a major issue for tree roots. Too often, the soil will not have pore space for oxygen to be present or will retain too much water and suffocate the tree. Because most of a tree’s roots appear in the top 12 inches of soil, maintaining a visible flare is an important part of planting a tree to ensure its long, happy life.
Flares on your pants, on the other hand, should have been buried a long, long time ago.
Ayla Moore became a Colorado master gardener in 2015. She lives in La Plata County.