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Family Tree: Can a New Tree be Planted Where Another Once Stood?

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In the early 1990s, Australian backyards began to shrink, leaving less room for trees and gardens, let alone the kid's trampoline. Now with backyards often smaller than 50 metres squared, tree-planting space is at a premium. If you have recently had a dead, wounded or diseased tree removed from your backyard, you no doubt miss the shade and privacy it once provided you with. 

While it is feasible to plant a new tree on the site of an old one, there are a few things you should take into consideration before deciding upon a course of action. Answer the following questions to get a better idea of the route you should take when planting your new tree. 

To Grind or not to Grind

A tree specialist will grind your stump down, destroying much of the remaining root system as possible in the process. This will free up space for your new tree's root system. However, you will need to remove the sawdust and wood debris to provide a suitably sized hole for the new tree. The hole for your new tree should be 2-5 times as wide as the root ball, with slanted sides no deeper than the height of the root ball. Tree roots fan out sideways, so width is much more important than depth. 

It Takes Time for Tree Stumps to Decay

If you relied on your former tree for shade or privacy, then you will no doubt wish to plant a new tree as soon as possible. However, if you didn't grind down the old stump, you might have a 10 year wait on your hands for the remaining stump to fully decay. To speed up the decomposition process, drill holes into the stump and fill them with compost before covering the stump with soil and mulch. 

The speed of decomposition depends on several factors, such as humidity level and tree species. However, studies show that when plant material is mixed with soil, rather than mulch, nitrogen-producing microorganisms in the soil double, which in turn doubles nitrogen levels. This means that if you are patient, and have adequately sped up the decomposition process, your new tree will have a nitrogen rich environment in which to thrive within a year or two.

A New Tree Can Grow Comfortably Beside a Stump

If there is much of the old stump remaining, and it is still relatively fresh, its roots will be tying up the nitrogen in the soil. This will make it difficult for a new tree to thrive if placed in close proximity to the stump. You also have to consider the remaining root system. Your new tree's roots will need space to spread out as it beds in. Therefore, unless you have had the stump ground down, the best option for the health of your tree is to place the new tree as far away as possible.  

If space is limited, dig a hole two feet from the stump, and then hack out any roots that might get in the way. As long as there is room to begin with, your new tree's roots will manoeuvre themselves around the dying root system of the old tree in their search for sustenance and anchorage.

Talk with a tree lopping and removal specialist to learn more about getting a tree removed and planting some new greenery.