Q: Recently we lost a big oak tree as a result of root damage from when the builder constructed our home. We’d like to replace the tree with a maple and want to know what our chances are of having success if we plant the maple exactly where the oak tree was planted.
A: You can plant a maple in the same spot but you have to work with the stump grinder operator to remove all of the trunk and roots possible. Be ready that day with a shovel or narrow-tine pitchfork (we called it a seed fork when I was a kid) in order to remove the mess of soil and chips when the grinder completes its initial work. Clear out the debris and expose any trunk and roots still left. Let the grinder chew those up too. Fill the resulting pit with your pile of soil, trying to avoid mixing too many chips into the spot. Just to be on the safe side, to supply extra nitrogen to the fungi that decompose wood chips, mix 1/2 cup of Milorganite or Espoma plant food with every cubic foot of soil/chips you put in the hole. Plant your replacement maple and drive a post beside it. Tie the trunk loosely to the post with a cloth: all that loose soil won’t make for a good tree anchor for at least a year.