The following question came in to the MLF inbox, and we thought the answer might interest fellow maple advocates:
To plant or not plant saplings over their first winter?
Hello, I discovered 16 saplings under my maple tree this spring and transplanted them into containers to protect and preserve them from meeting their demise due to my lawnmower. How should I care for them during the winter months as I live in Zone 6? I have heard to bring them inside or plant them. However as a novice I am not sure what to do!
I have become so protective of them as they are not 6 inches tall (most on average) and want them to flourish for next spring/summer. Any advice you can give will be most helpful.
Here’s a “How to” for transplanting your small sugar maple saplings:
- Plant your maple saplings between now and mid-October. Don’t wait for spring. Maples grow best in a well drained loamy to sandy loam soil.
- At the selected planting site, remove any surface litter and dig a hole at least twice a wide and 1 1/2 times the depth of the pot.
- Wet the soil in the containers (pots); invert a pot and tap the bottom of the pot to release the small sapling from the pot.
- Place a few cm of fertile soil in the bottom of the planting hole before centering the sapling/soil mass in the planting hole to a position that is level with the surrounding soil surface.
- Water the sapling/soil mass and the soil surface within the hole; allow to drain before filling around the sapling with soil dug from the hole earlier.
- Form a saucer shaped depression around the sapling by using the toe of your shoe to firm the soil around the sapling and in the hole. Rainfall and water will collect in this saucer and soak into the soil to support tree growth.
- To check if the sapling is firmly set into place, grasp the stem and gently pulling upward. If there is resistance, the sapling is planted properly and its roots are in contact with surrounding soil. Check that the sapling is in a vertical upright position before watering the sapling for the second time.
- Add 3 – 4 cm of mulch to the soil surface around the sapling, extending the mulch to cover an area of 25 – 30 cm square to reduce moisture evaporation and weed growth.
- Because of their small size and the reported local ravenous lawn mower, place a small stake (marker) beside each sapling.
Maple saplings are often browsed by mice, rabbits and other vermin during the winter and early spring seasons. Commercial protective (non-toxic) products are available to protect your saplings from this demise. SCOOT is one of these products – available at most garden centers, TSC and CO-OP stores. Follow label directions.
In nature maple saplings develop (grow) under the the shade of the mature trees around them. They will grow under these conditions for many years waiting for an opening to develop in the canopy above them. When this happens, the saplings grow rapidly and compete with each other to fill the opening.
Young Maples need, at the least, partial shade during their early years of development – until they are 1.2 – 2.0 m in height. Choose a planting location that provides them with at least 6 – 8 hours of protection from direct (full) sunlight during the warmest part of the day. If this isn’t possible, accept that some of your small saplings may die from exposure, some will have suppressed growth for many years and some may develop a bush form rather than a tree if exposed to full sunlight during the day.