PINE TREES Beautiful boughs
Evergreens really spruce up a landscape, and October is the best time to plant them.
By REBECCA SLOAN
With their fresh fragrance and shady boughs of blue and green, pines bring a special tranquillity to the yard.
Pines also offer practical solutions to many landscaping dilemmas.
Plant them side by side to form a dense privacy hedge or plant them next to an open field to block bitter winds.
And pines provide shelter for wildlife and add color to dark, wintry days.
So why not plant a few pines? There's no time like the present.
Now's the time
"October is the best time to plant pines. You can also plant during spring, but fall is better because a newly planted pine tree won't do well during a hot, dry summer," said Debbie Yeager of Storeyland Christmas Tree Farm in Burghill.
Before you go shopping for pine trees, you should know that the term pine is often loosely used to refer to a wide variety of evergreen trees, including spruces, firs and hemlocks.
Most popular here
Most local nurseries stock a variety of pines, but in our area, the three most popular types are the Norway spruce, blue spruce and white pine.
Most folks like the Norway spruce because it grows so fast.
"The Norway spruce grows twice as fast as the blue spruce. If people want to plant a privacy hedge, they often choose the Norway," said John Kraynak, of Kraynak's Nursery in Hermitage, Pa.
A Norway spruce will grow about 12 inches per year, while a blue spruce will grow about 6 inches per year.
Of course, the blue spruce is prettier than the Norway spruce.
"The Norway is just green. It doesn't have any of the blue coloring," Kraynak said.
Although many people prize spruces for their tall, tapered shape, some folks choose to plant the less tapered white pine because it grows even faster.
"White pines generally grow faster than any kind of spruce, but although white pines grow fast, they also make more of a mess than spruce trees," Kraynak said.
That's because white pines have long, soft needles as opposed to the short, stiff needles of the Norway spruce and the short, sharp needles of the blue spruce.
"The white pine shed their old needles in the fall. Although this is beneficial to the soil, it can make a mess in the yard," Kraynak said.
White pines are also more sensitive to road salt, so Kraynak advises against planting them too close to a highway.
"If you want a privacy hedge along the road, you probably shouldn't plant white pines," he said.
You should also avoid planting too close to buildings.
"Whether you choose blue spruce, Norway spruce or white pine, remember that these kinds of trees become very large," Yeager said. "If you plant them right next to your house or in your flower beds, you will either have to eventually cut them down or transplant them."
Kraynak said white pine and blue spruce can easily reach a height of 50 feet or more, and Norway spruce can reach a height of 25 feet or more.
Furthermore, the circumference of a blue spruce and Norway spruce can spread to 25 feet.
"It's sometimes hard to imagine that the little tree you buy at the nursery will grow into such a giant, but it will, so plan accordingly," Yeager said.
If you want to plant pines in a row, Yeager recommends planting them at least 10 feet apart.
"To make things look less sparse when trees are young, you can stagger the rows," she said.
To ensure healthy growth, you must plant pines properly.
The first rule is this: Don't dig the hole too deep.
"The top of the root ball should be just slightly above the ground," Yeager said.
Pines prefer a neutral to slightly acidic, well-drained soil.
During planting, loosen the soil inside the hole and add a fertilizer.
After the tree is in the ground, water it generously for a few weeks, and in the spring, feed it a liquid fertilizer.
"Once the tree has become established -- about three years after planting -- you no longer need to feed it," Yeager said.
Yeager recommends trimming pine trees only during June and mulching them heavily after they've been planted.
Although considered hardy, pines still fall prey to some diseases.
Yeager said white pine weevils sometimes become a problem, and Kraynak said mites love to take a bite out pines.
"The white pine weevil first attacks the top of the tree, so if you notice brown needles only on the top few branches, cut the top off and burn it. Then spray the tree with an insecticide," Yeager said.
Kraynak said browning needles near the center of the pine tree indicate a mite infestation and recommends spraying mite-infested trees with an insecticide.
The cost of white pine, Norway spruce and blue spruce trees will vary depending upon size, but a 5-foot tree will probably cost about $50.
Kraynak said the Canadian hemlock is another type of pine that's growing in popularity.
"It has a shorter needle and is very ornamental. The branches have a weeping look," he said.
The Canadian hemlock reaches a height of about 50 feet and is more delicate than spruces and pines.
"It should be planted in a more sheltered area," Kraynak said.