How to Grow and Care for a Locust Tree

What You'll Need
Cotton Seed Meal

The locust tree has a reputation as being extremely hardy. It is tolerant of poor soils and grows well in places with a high soil acidity. These trees demand as much sun as possible but have low water requirements. Follow the steps listed below to plant healthier, stronger locust trees, and get the most performance out of them once they've been planted.

Step 1: Choosing the Location

Try planting a locust tree in a place where nothing else has grown well, as it will still likely thrive. Thse trees do not require much water, so you can place it in a a sandy or clay area, or even on a small rise. The most important thing is that the tree is able to get as much sunlight as possible throughout the day.

Step 2: Condition the Soil

Even though locust trees are tolerant of poor and acidic soil, they still like soil that contain all the necessary nutrients. Condition the soil with 1 cup of cotton seed meal and ½ cup of powdered gypsum. Mix into the soil well.

Water the area thoroughly, and mix it again after the water has been completely absorbed. If you like, you could also add a shovelful of sifted compost.

Step 3: When to Plant

Plant the locust tree in early spring. A good rule of thumb for most trees is to start them at about the same time that other plants are starting to sprout spring buds.

Make sure the last hard freeze has passed. If a freeze comes after the tree has been planted, protect it from frost by covering it with a sheet. If the cold spell will be particularly harsh, put a small lamp under the sheet to keep the tree warm.

Step 4: Mulching

Add about 2 inches of organic mulch over the root area of the tree. This protects against insects and disease, and helps hold nutrients in place. Once a year, remove the mulch and add about an inch of sifted compost. Use a pitchfork to press small holes carefully into the soil. Cover the area with mulch again, and water it thoroughly.

Step 5: Tree Care and Protection

If you prune the tree periodically, you can encourage branching to make it bushier. To do this, clip about 6 inches from the tips of the branch, just above a leaf or branch node. This will result in 2 branches emerging at the juncture. Take the clippings, strip the bottom 2 inches of bark and use them to root new locust trees.