142: Craig Jenkins-Sutton on Tree Selection and Planting
Planting trees to a proper depth for the best root health.
Craig’s love of the landscape was a natural progression of his upbringing in central Minnesota where he grew up at a youth camp. When he attended college in Chicago, he maintained his connection with the outdoors which he soon realized his career path needed to encompass. In a confluence of events, Craig was hired as the Operations Manager at Chicago Christian Industrial League managing the landscaping job training program. Most of the landscaping contracts were with the city of Chicago where they maintained many of the city’s green spaces, median strips and public schools.
Eventually, Craig joined D. Foley Landscape as Construction Manager in Massachusetts where he continued to fine tune his plant knowledge, installation skills, and design esthetic. It was here that the vision of an urban landscaping business was formed and in early spring of 2003, he returned to Chicago to start Topiarius. Craig’s first landscaping job was completed out of the back of his Ford Focus wagon using 5 gallon buckets and a shovel. Originally, during the landscape season they hired local college students to help out with the labor; however, now they have gone from a 2½ employee operation to an 11-person operation with an office and landscaping yard on the west side of the Chicago.
In This Podcast:
Greg chats with Craig, a landscaping artist who bring his dedication for a job well done to ensure his customers get long lasting value. With Craig’s natural understanding of basic permaculture techniques, he shares how he has developed a process for his employees to observe and adjust based on those observations. And with years of experience Craig also has a lot to share about best practices for planting tree of all kinds. There are many important tips and techniques discussed that will help anyone who is getting ready to plant in their yards.
Listen in to Learn About:
- How he started with no landscaping training and developed the skills he has now
- How he recognized some of his skills and weaknesses and how that led to him starting his own company
- The wide variety of jobs he is doing and how they differ from normal landscaping jobs
- Why his company only has one lawn mower and they don’t use it every day
- When he recommends to his customers to try to grow food even if it for the first time
- What the two definitions of “return on investment” are for his customers
- What is integrated pest management and why he prefers this method
- How his crews use the observation methods to deal with insects
- How to pick a tree for the space you have and what to consider such as hardiness zone, soil type and consistency, maturity size potential, scale ratios, function, variety & species size potential, purpose and characteristics,
- How to tell if a tree is healthy in a nursery in the spring vs the fall or even the summer
- Some tips to use when looking root bound trees and why it is important that you to see the root flare
- Tree staking – the purpose of the stakes and when the single stake is okay vs when it is better to have three posts
- Planting depth – problems with planting too high vs too low
- What a girdled tree root system is and how to adjust for that
- What the biggest mistakes are with planting trees or plants
- How to determine the water needs of newly planted trees
- The problems with mulch volcanoes and what the best depth is for trees
As well as
- Why he does what he does is all about not wasting money, so even while offering a luxury service he wants his customers to have the value that lasts
- His advice for listeners is to consider which way is the most difficult way as that is most likely the better way because it takes time to do it properly
Craig’s Recommended Books:
Michael Dirr – anything he wrote
Thomas Church – Gardens are for people
“It is a little unfair to attempt to prove that nature has crept slyly over the fence and done the work for you”
How to reach Craig: