By Jackie Carroll
One of the most ecologically important groups of plants is the conifers, or plants that have cones, and one conifer that is familiar to everyone is the pine tree. Growing and caring for pine trees is easy. Pine trees (Pinus spp.) range in size from the 4 foot (1 m.) dwarf mugo to the white pine, which soars to heights of over 100 feet (30 m.). The trees vary in other subtle ways as well, including the length, shape, and texture of their needles and cones.
How to Grow Your Own Pine Trees
To make pine tree care a snap later on, begin by choosing a good site and planting the tree properly. In fact, once established in a good location, it needs almost no care at all. Make sure the tree will have plenty of sunlight as it grows. It also needs moist, rich soil that drains freely. If you aren’t sure about the drainage, dig a hole about a foot (31 cm.) deep and fill it with water. Twelve hours later the hole should be empty.
Begin by digging a hole about twice the size of the container or root ball. Save the dirt you remove from the hole and use it as backfill after you have the tree in position. You want a hole that is exactly deep enough so that the tree sits with the soil line even with the surrounding soil. If you bury the tree too deep, you risk rot.
Remove the tree from its pot and spread the roots so that they aren’t circling the mass of roots. If necessary, cut through them to keep them from circling. If the tree is balled and burlapped, cut the wires holding the burlap in place and remove the burlap.
Make sure the tree is standing straight and with its best side forward and then backfill. Press down the soil to remove air pockets as you go. When the hole is half full, fill it with water and let the water drain before you continue. Flush with water again when the hole is full. If the soil settles, top it off with more soil, but don’t mound the soil around the trunk. Apply mulch around the tree, but don’t let it touch the trunk.
If pine tree growing from seed, you can use the same planting instructions above once the seedling has grown 6 inches to a foot (15-31 cm.) in height.
Pine Tree Care
Water newly planted trees every few days to keep the soil thoroughly moist but not soggy. After a month water weekly in the absence of rain. Once established and growing, pine trees only need water during prolonged dry spells.
Don’t fertilize the tree during the first year. The first time you fertilize, use 2 to 4 pounds (1-2 kg.) of 10-10-10 fertilizer for every square foot (929 sq. cm.) of soil. In subsequent years, use 2 pounds (1 kg.) of fertilizer for each inch (2.5 cm.) of trunk diameter every other year.