by Cassie Steele, Freelance Writer
Photo by Héctor Martínez
Beginning in January 2018, Maine’s Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry adopted a new set of rules prohibiting the sale of invasive plants in Maine. The legislation is especially important for conserving the growth of native trees, which are vital to insect populations and regional forestry. For gardeners looking to incorporate more native tree species into their landscapes, it’s key to know how (and when) to plant Maine’s wide array of native trees species: as their survival directly impacts local plant and wildlife habitats.
What Not To Plant
First, it’s important to know the criteria for invasive species in Maine so you can determine which trees are likely hurting your local ecosystem. If you choose to remove invasive tree species already growing on your property, bring them to a local recycling center who will make use of the wood. Once you familiarize yourself with Maine’s native tree species, you can find many available for purchase at a local nursery. Typically, trees are sold as “container grown,” which offer the plant limited space for the roots to grow (thereby encouraging the roots to spread out).
How and When To Plant Native Trees
Container grown trees and shrubs are best planted in early spring or fall, so that there is enough time for roots to grow before the temperature drops in winter. When planting, remember that roots grow outward more than downward: so don’t dig a hole too deep, or more than 1 foot longer than the length of the plant. Native trees in Maine are already adapted to Maine’s weather and soil conditions, so it’s a good idea to avoid interfering with the soil.
Caring for Your New Native Tree
Once your tree has been planted, maintenance in the first three years is vital to ensuring healthy development. Be sure to regularly weed the areas around the tree roots and mulch the ground so that the soil is properly moistened. The best form of mulch to use for Maine’s native trees is organic matter, such as bark chips. Of course, it’s important to water thoroughly, but in the winter months, your tree will need less water to survive.
Ultimately, your landscape will be best served by cultivating an ecosystem that mirrors the species found in Maine’s wildlife, including native trees. With proper care, regional trees will flourish in your local garden while keeping local ecosystems intact and protecting Maine’s species.