Rather than build a full-length fence around their backyard, Tracy and Ryan Walsh of Maple Grove, Minnesota, decided to create a softer, more aesthetically pleasing divider consisting of three cedar panels and small groups of evergreen trees. The result is a lovely landscape element that also promotes privacy.
Here, you’ll learn five tips for spacing, planting and caring for the Techny Arborvitae trees selected for this project. To find step-by-step instructions for building the cedar fence panels shown in this article, Privacy Fence Panel Project (or “Privacy with Panache,” p. 42 in the June/July 2010 issue of HANDY).
1. First, insert a stake directly between two fence panels. For the back two trees, measure 3 1/2 ft. into your yard and then add stakes at 1 3/4 ft. to the right and 1 3/4 ft. to the left of the center marker. From these two markers, measure 3 1/2 ft. at an angle and add another stake that lines up with your center marker. (Note: There should be 3 1/2 ft. of open space between each tree to allow for growth.) Repeat this step to mark the location of each group of trees.
2. Use spray paint to mark a circle around each stake that is large enough to fill approximately 5 in. of loose soil around all sides of each tree’s root ball. Remove the sod first; then dig until you’ve reached a depth that measures just below the trunk of each tree. (Some roots should remain exposed so your trees can take in water and oxygen.) Remember to dig straight sides so you can fill the holes with as much soil as possible.
3. Center a tree in each hole and cut back any burlap or rope wrapped around the roots or trunks. Fill the holes with a mixture of equal parts potting soil and native soil from your yard. This will help your trees absorb vital nutrients and moisture right from the start.
4. Generously water each tree. Landscape designer Scott Reynolds of Minnetonka, Minnesota, recommends pushing the end of your garden hose into the soil as shown, which will help remove air pockets and allow more water to reach the roots. Repeat this step every two weeks or so during dry summer months.
5. Add a layer of mulch around the base of each tree (but not against the trunks) to prevent weed growth and help hold moisture. Shape the trees with shears and clip the tops to the height you prefer. Landscape designer Scott Reynolds says June is the best time to prune junipers such as the Techny Arborvitae shown in this article.