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I live in salt lake city, and have very hard rocky soil. I would like to plant a few varieties of trees for shade and decor (like to enjoy them in my own lifetime)I realize I'll need to excavate for good soil and root ball. Any suggestions?

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A

There are several trees that can be planted in Salt Lake City, in fact more trees are here now, then when the pioneers arrived.  Ideally for successful tree planting and survival you need to know a few things about your site.  One is the pH of your soil.  Generally, our soils are alkaline, that is have a high pH.  To be certain of your soil pH, texture, salinity, potassium and phosphorous levels you can submit a soil sample to our USU Analytical Labs.  The basic soil test is $14 which is a worthwhile investment considering trees in nurseries can cost up to several hundred dollars.  Excavating is not recommended, as most tree roots are growing in the top 12 to 18 inches of soil, and the deeper you dig into your soil, you are encountering parent mineral material that is very low in organic matter and microorganisms, that is what plants need to grow. 

For selecting trees, it is good to know your site.  Soil is definitely one of the considerations, but also sun exposure, other landscape features (patio, deck, lawn area, overhead power lines) that may compete or interfere with the growth of the tree, as well as personal preference for evergreen or deciduous trees. 

There is a great resource available online by our USU Extension Forester, Dr. Mike Kuhns on Selecting and Planting Landscape Trees. http://extension.usu.edu/forestry/HomeTown/HO_TreeSelection.htm
There is good information on planting as well as a many species of trees listed with their cultural and species characteristics that fit your specific site. 

If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me.

Posted on 14 May 2008

Maggie Shao
Horticulture Agent, Salt Lake County

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