Any advice on how to plant/arrange Colorado Blue Spruce please?

NewbieDebMarch 20, 2011

Hi, newly registered here but have been reading for a while. I need to plant lots of Colorado Blue Spruce to set up a wind-block, and to block the view of my neighbors yard. The piles of junk are awful and this is right in front of my kitchen window.

I have decided on the CBS due to our zone 5, close proximity to highway (therefore lots of road salt spray) and full sun conditions.

Ideally, the trees should block out 264' on the North side of our acre, then possibly a few more meeting them at the Northwest corner. Hope this makes sense.

My questions are:

How far apart to plant them to get ideal blockage but not kill lower branches? Staggered or straight line?

Am I better off to plant this spring, as soon as possible or next fall? Our temperatures are pretty extreme here.

I know I need to mulch, but have been reading mixed information on whether or not to fertilize, add peat moss, etc.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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treebarb Z5 Denver

Hi Deb! I'm a conifer newbie too. You are going to get some great recommendations here!
I have a few questions. Where are you located? What's your soil like? What exposure, north facing, west facing, etc?
Are there any power lines or obstructions and how wide is the planting area?

I'm going to suggest you think about diversity in a space that long. If a bug infestation or disease comes along it could wipe out your hard work. If you mix up the plantings with at least a few different species you'll lower that risk.
As far as when to plant, it depends on where you are.
Where are you getting your trees and what size are you looking at?

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 11:06PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

welcome newbie ....

your goals of a wind/view block and never have lower branches touching .. are polar opposites ...

you either want the blocking.. or you want perfect singular specimens ...

check out musser forests .. link below ... perhaps even call them and discuss your options ....

i would go with at least 4 differing species for diversity ...

we are having a heck of a plague on older picea pungens here in MI ... you surely would not want to lose them all ... some time in the future ...

you ought to contact your local county soil conservation district office for suggests on wind breaks .. which are a soil cons issue .. but are also .. wait for it .. view breaks ... my local office has plant sales this time of year.. cheap and small .. in bulk ...

planting in my z5 is when the plants are dormant.. which is either now thru about 4/15 [pushing it thru 5/1] ... 6 to 8 weeks before the heat of summer..

or in october ... 6 to 8 weeks before ground freeze ...

until you define your primary goal.. spacing is at issue ... staggered would be better in my mind ...

unless you have BAD CLAY SOIL.. i would NOT amend ... nor would i fertilize unless a soil test indicates something is lacking in your soil ... they are trees.. not children that need food ... and fert will not make them grow faster ...

mulch is good .... but on 260 odd feet.. i dont know how you are going to manage that .. so PROPER WATERING IS IMPERATIVE ...

and your temps are no more extreme than mine.. that is not an issue if you start with the proper stock ....


Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 8:08AM
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Thanks for your responses.

I am in north"ish" eastern Illinois about 80 miles south of Chicago.

Goal one is definitely a wind block/privacy screen (neighbor just added a new washer-dryer combo to his driveway collection - so screening him out is a must!!)

I have been reading online forever, just trying to find something that the salt spray won't kill. My reasoning for not having branches touching is because I was reading here about others trees shading each other so much it was killing the lower branches. But, I definitely see what you mean about opposite effects! Glad this forum is here or this job could have easily landed in the 'stupidest things I've done" link, haha!

I will call conservation office today and see what they have to say. I am still trying to find the trees - we need so many!! (thanks for the link!) We are in farm country, so soil is good at least.

Sounds like a mixture of trees might be better - will take a look at some others too.

My thoughts were to put each tree (& mulch) in a small bordered ring of that plastic border. Is this a ridiculous idea with that many trees?

Thanks so much for the help - I know from experience it always costs twice as much time and $$ to re-think things later...

    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 8:37AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

in my world.. warped as it is... if God had meant for you to use plastic.. then the plants would be plastic ...

besides being a waste of money.. time.. frankly we usually end up ripping them all out ...

and dont even start with me on landscape fabric.. lol ...

and keep in mind.. as compared to a line of trees at the property line ... one or two trees.. in closer to the window.. will block the view mush faster and completely ...

heck.. you can put up an arbor.. and grow some morning glories or clematis and block the view ... depending on sun ...

if you were to plant something like a redbud or crabapple.. 15 feet out the window ... in the lawn .. you will have a screen for 8 or 9 months of the year ... while the others grow to height ...

do NOT get stuck in the box called the property line... think outside the box ..

planting 2 year old babes.. can be done very fast and very simply ... perhaps brandon can give you a lead there ... if not the soil cons dist ...

i got confused that you were in CO .... lol ... blue spruce would not be high on my list in bulk ... but i dont have salt/tree issues in my mind.. so i will defer ... on that

report back what the soil cons peeps have to say ...


    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 9:00AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Staggering the trees will definitely allow for a more happy medium between the trees being overcrowded and not having the visual blocking effect you desire. If there's room, even three or more rows might be beneficial.

I also agree with the recommendations above to use more than one species of tree. If you plant just one type, one or two ARE going to die. Then you'll have a look like someone with a front tooth missing. It makes the whole landscape look broken. With a variety of trees (maybe including some deciduous trees in areas where visual blocking is not imperative all year), you'll end up with a much more visually appealing design and one that's less susceptible to that snaggle-tooth look.

I'll also second Ken's recommendation against using landscape fabric or plastic edging. Both of these have the potential to cause lots of problems. Landscape fabric makes an excellent anchor for weeds whose roots grow down through the fabric. Landscape fabric, covered with mulch, works well to keep weeds from growing UP through the fabric, but usually does little to prevent weeds and grass from growing roots DOWN through the fabric. Imagine having to pull even just one well anchored weed once it thoroughly entangles it's roots into the fabric. The plastic mulch rings are usually flimsy and work only temporarily, just long enough to cause root system problems (near-surface roots that are redirected by the border and later become girdling roots).

I use herbicides to keep my mulched areas around my trees relatively clean. As long as you are careful when you spray (avoiding wind drift), glophosate, used about twice a year, works very well and is safe. The mulch, if applied properly, should take care of almost all of your weeds and the herbicide will take care of the rest. On smaller projects, I sometimes use around 8 sheet thick newspaper under the mulch to prevent existing weeds from surfacing through the mulch.

Below is a link with information you may find helpful when it comes time to plant.

Here is a link that might be useful: Planting a Tree or Shrub

    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 10:09AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

planting small stock can be done with a planting bar ... see link ..

i have done it simply with a shovel in this manner...

you do not have to make it all that complicated ...

also ... copy/paste this link:

he used the straight lines.. but at least 3 differing trees ..


Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 6:42PM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

I'm sorry to bypass the discussion but if I may please, I have seen one of 'thee' most attractive Picea pungens screen at a nurseryman's house and he had (3) lines of them as a staggered planting with all plantings being equidistant to approx, 13, 14, 15.ft (vary it, it will look more natural). (5 meters minus .66 to .33 of a meter between)

Perfect! He told me he didn't even pay for em. Said he qualified for a 'grant' of some sort. So, ask your local state agriculture extension office to see if you would also qualify.

Best of luck and it will certainly be very attractive with "plain" seedlings of all varying colors of green and blues and shapes. Really it was incredible. His trees were reaching 15' tall I'd say and not touching quite yet. Enough room to still walk between them, but that was it.

Keep em watered well the first two years and spray the weeds away with an herbicide and cage the seedlings if you can, and continue to keep the weeds away until the seedlings reach 5' tall. You may possibly need to water during the summer once or twice during years 3, 4, and 5.


    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 7:19PM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

It didn't click you wanted blue Colorado spruces, only... whatever ticks your clock. I'd recommend a mix though. Even if you have to purchase them, separately to get enough blue-seedlings to satisfy you. It'll look much better.

If you want to get the stocky-beefy seedlings, I personally recommend 'Treehaven Evergreen Nursery'. I'll link you to their Price List for this year and you can print it if you need to or want.

Just as an estimate so you know, I paid with shipping for 36 seedlings, between 55 and 60 dollars a few year ago. It appears it'll cost you about 75$ now. They'll be shipped bare-root so you'll need to learn to plant on a "mound" inside of the planting hole to allow the root-system to be spread "nicely". You can trim the roots back on the long & scraggly roots to make the root-system all one length. He'll also send a mycorrhiza gel that you mix up in a 5-gallon bucket. You dip the seedlings in the gel when it thickens to a consistency of "thick gravy", then plant...


Here is a link that might be useful: Treehaven Evergreen Nursery 2011 Order Form

    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 7:49PM
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I really like the tree line pictures - that is definitely what I had in mind. Big score at the extension center - I would never have thought to call them, so thanks!! They said my soil here is good quality and should drain well.

They have Eastern White Pine, Norway Spruce and Colorado Spruce bare root. They also have Douglas Fir, Canadian Hemlock and Black Hills Spruce potted.

They suggested planting two rows, at least 2 varieties, staggered. I don't think we have room for 3 rows. So, any suggestions on best layout for these? Would any of these be more hearty?

Thanks again for all your suggestions and advice.

Oh, and I get it - NO PLASTIC, haha!

    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 8:17PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

If salt spray is a factor you may need to stick with Picea pungens & Picea abies. Hemlock and Black Hills Spruce would be out unless protected by the others, not sure about Doug Fir. White Pine will lose lower branches in time as well as not being salt tolerant.


    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 10:54PM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

Here's a good set of photos. And as tj says, skip the pines. Skip doug fir too, they're not for our climate (I also live in IL).


Here is a link that might be useful: Spruce Screen

    Bookmark   March 22, 2011 at 8:42AM
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I'd be a happy girl if my trees came out looking anything like that (on a smaller scale, of course!)

I've ordered 30 Norway Spruce, 20 Colorado Spruce and one Crabapple to help with the kitchen window situation.

I changed the plan a little, and will now be doing a large "L" of trees along the north and west sides of the lot, instead of just the north side.

I am going to keep looking for a third variety that the road salt won't kill, but with just these 2 kinds, would you mix them up somehow or put all the Norways on the outside, or all the CBS on the outside?

I have never planted anything more than one of those Christmas "plant in a box" things and really appreciate all the tips. Thanks!

    Bookmark   March 22, 2011 at 7:51PM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

I think in your situation you might want to plant 3-5 pungens near your home... then 3-5 Norway's and sort of continue this theme & possibly ending the trail with Colorado spruce, again.

Best Regards,


    Bookmark   March 22, 2011 at 8:26PM
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That sounds much more interesting than the straight lines, I think that is what I will do. I wish software existed to visualize it... once they're planted they will be staying put! Thanks again.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2011 at 8:50AM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

Here's a plan. You can pot up or plant the remaining few in case any in your screen perish.


    Bookmark   March 23, 2011 at 5:30PM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

Need to re-do.


    Bookmark   March 23, 2011 at 5:47PM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

It's all on the paper... [18 'rows'] -


    Bookmark   March 23, 2011 at 8:33PM
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Thanks Dax! That looks great, and even I should be able to follow it! The trees come in April 16th and I can't wait to get started... stupid 30 degree weather :(

    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 10:08AM
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