How to ensure tree branches spread properly


November 18, 2006|By Jon Traunfeld and Ellen Nibali | Jon Traunfeld and Ellen Nibali,Special to The Sun

When a nursery planted my 20-foot oak tree, it cut off the twine that had restrained the branches during transport but didn't spread out the branches. It has been several weeks and the branches are still clumped together. I'm concerned it will not grow properly.

It is quite possible to train the branches of a young tree by placing "spacers" between limbs to spread them apart. You can also hang weights on each limb to pull the limb to a good wide angle. Fashion your own weight devices by using containers such as empty plastic milk cartons and fill them with the amount of water that lowers the branch to the correct angle. Our online publication, HG84: Pruning Ornamental Plants, explains what constitutes a good tree crotch.

On a mild day, is it still possible to transplant grasses, hostas and lilies?

Although fall is a great time to transplant perennial flowers and other herbaceous plants, the later in the fall that you do so the greater the chance that they may not survive the winter. It would be better for you to wait until early spring to transplant. Nursery-grown potted perennials, on the other hand, can be planted until the ground freezes.


It is rarely necessary to fertilize a mature tree. Newly planted and very young trees benefit the most from tree fertilization.

Insulate fig trees from freezing temperatures with leaves, straw or tarps. Any exposed wood is vulnerable to winter damage.

Jon Traunfeld, regional specialist, and Ellen Nibali, horticulture consultant, work at Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center, which offers Maryland residents free gardening information. Call the center's "hotline" at 800-342-2507 (8 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday-Friday) or e-mail plant and pest questions through the Send a Question feature at

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