The aspen tree is a typical tree species growing wild across the United States. If you want to grow an aspen in your backyard, you should be prepared to give the tree a lot of tender loving care. For starters, you need to provide the right amount of water, sunlight and wind and have the perfect mix of soil in your yard. On top of that, you need patience, understanding and good care instructions before you can enjoy aspen trees in any urban area.
Buy your aspen tree from a local nursery and plant it in your yard in an open spot with full sunlight and without anything casting a shade over the tree. Aspen trees are vulnerable to wind damage, so plant your tree 10 to 20 feet from a tall fence or on the north or east side of your house. After choosing the perfect spot, dig a hole twice the width and depth of the tree's root ball. Use the soil from the hole and mix it equally with compost. The best soil for aspen trees is well-draining and non-clay medium to heavy soil. Fill about a quarter of the hole with the mix. Water the mix so that the soil settles, eliminating any air holes in the bottom of the planting hole. Dispose the roots of the aspen tree and free any tangled roots.
If you were unable to plant your aspen tree immediately after purchasing it, the roots of the tree might be dry. In this case, spray a little water on the roots. Then place the aspen tree in the hole and fill the hole with the soil mix. Water the planting area thoroughly and wait for the soil to settle to see if any parts of the roots are exposed or if any air holes appear. Use more soil to cover any holes or exposed roots. Spread a one- to two-inch-thick layer of mulch around the aspen tree and leave four to six inches around the stem uncovered.
Watering and Fertilizing
Aspen trees need plenty of water during the first few weeks following planting. One trick to guarantee enough water during the first six weeks is to lay a soaker hose under the mulch. After the first six weeks, make sure that you let the soil dry before you water the tree again. Drooping leaves in your aspen tree are a sign that you are either overwatering or underwatering your tree, so adjust your watering habits before it is too late.
You only need to fertilize your aspen tree once a year. Apply a slow-release fertilizer early in the spring to advance growth and tree health. High-nitrogen fertilizer encourages faster growth but you can use any general, balanced-type fertilizer.
Aspen trees are vulnerable to tree diseases, so remove any dead, diseased or crossing limbs immediately. Crossing limbs also shade the lower parts of the tree. The best time to prune the aspen tree is in the winter.
Eija Rissanen is a freelance journalist living in Hawaii. She has a journalism and environmental studies degree from Hawaii Pacific University. Her articles have been published in Kalamalama, the student newspaper of Hawaii Pacific University, and some other environmental and travel publications and Web sites in Europe and the United States.