How To Plant a Tree
Step 1: Planting Season – You should choose the correct time of the year to plant a tree. Late spring or summertime are not good due to the fact that the heat can stress it and may cause it to whither and die. For best results, the best time of the year to plant a tree is in fall or early spring.
Step 2: Digging Requirements and Guidelines – Make sure to check with any local diggers hotlines to make sure you do not cut an electric, gas, cable, or phone line! This could prove to be both dangerous and costly! Also check with your local officials to see if there are any other guidelines or regulations which you need to follow.
Step 3: Choosing the Right Tree – Do a little research into local native species in your area. Native species will ultimately do better and fit in with the local eco-system as well.
Step 4: Digging the Hole: Preparing a hole for the tree can be time consuming. Take your shovel and dig your hole 2 to 3 times that of the root balls width,not merely enough for it to ‘just fit’! This will allow the roots to spread more easily and grow normally into the soil. It will also give you room to cut off any wire root baskets if there are any.
You will want to dig the hole with a small elevation of dirt in the center where the tree will sit. The hole should be deeper around the edges, but you should have a raised plateau in the middle where the root ball will go. This is important because it will help to prevent the root ball from continuously sitting in water. Any water excesses will flow naturally to the deeper area around the edges where the roots will take in water as needed. Remember, this is very important! Not having the plateau in the center of the hole where the tree will rest could cause it to literally drown, because it is sitting in a pool of water.
The point where the tree extends out of the ground should be elevated slightly higher than the surrounding ground. In this case, by slightly higher, we mean 1/4 to 1/2 inch. This prevents the water from collecting next to the base of the trunk which can causes the tree to rot. You should raise up the dirt around your tree just like around your house to keep it from rotting, just as you would to help keep water out of your basement.
To further improve your new trees chances of a long, healthy lifespan, use the garden cultivator to loosen the dirt all around the hole to make it easier for the roots to spread.
Step 5: Prepare the Tree for Planting – This process varies slightly depending on if it is a small tree or a large tree.
In the case of a small tree, you may be able to turn it upside down to get it out of the pot. If it is in plastic containers, you may also be able to cut them to remove them.
If your tree is larger and the roots are in a net or hessian or a rope bag, you may need a large scissors or a sharp knife to cut through the packaging. Utilityknives with a new blade usually work well for this, or a sharp shears. Take caution not to handle the tree with the burlap bag removed. First, place it in the hole on your elevated plateau, then cut away as much of the burlap wrap or wire basket as you can from around it. The goal we are trying to accomplish here is to keep as much dirt around the root system as possible. Moving the tree around without the protective packaging on the roots can cause air to get to the roots and dry them out, even inside of the root ball!
Another important factor to remember is not to leave the roots out of its container or burlap for too long a time, especially in the sun and/or wind, as it could dry out and damage the roots.
Step 6: Plant the Tree – Place the tree gently into the hole. Be sure that your hole isn’t too deep or too shallow. The ground level of the plant in the potshould match up with the ground level after you fill the hole in. Do not bury over the crown (where the stem changes to root), nor should you under any circumstances leave any roots exposed. This could lead to serious problems down the road with your yard and tree!
As a guide, you can place the shovel handle flat across the hole from one side to the other to measure whether the crown is level with the surrounding soil before filling in the hole.
Step 7: Nutrition – Use some compost or composted manure if needed. If the soil that you currently have is not rich, has clay-like qualities or if it has the consistency of dust or sand, the addition of manure or compost will get your tree off to a much better start. Back-fill three quarters of the hole with existing dirt, one quarter with compost or composted manure.
Step 8: Fertilizer – Do not use commercial fertilizer! It has a tendency to over feed the tree and make it less likely to do well over the long term. A great benefit to new trees, however, is an organic mixture that includes micorrhizae, beneficial fungi that enhance a tree’s uptake of soil nutrients. Your organic mixture can also include rock phosphate which is a natural root-growth enhancer.
Step 9: Fruit and Nut Trees – If your are planting fruit or nut trees, always give them extra attention. Adding manure or compost is quite essential if you are planting a fruit or a nut tree. Use a one third mixture of your compost or composted manure and two thirds with existing dirt to back-fill the hole.
Step 10: Watering – Obviously, you will want to water your newly planted tree. During the first several waterings, allow for some settling, then back-fill with some of the remaining soil, and then water again. This will eliminate air pockets. The proper formula for watering a new tree is one gallon (3.7 liters) of water for every six inches (15 cm) of tree height.
Step 11: Mulch – Mulch, mulch, mulch! This is another important step to remember and utilize! Cover your new planting hole area with 1-3 inches (2.5 cm – 7.6 cm) of a shredded hardwood or a leaf mulch remembering to keep the mulch 2-3″ away from the trunk or the trunk will rot. Don’t over-mulch your new tree, either. A few inches are enough to keep water in and most weeds out. Mulch a circle out to the drip line, about the same width as the tree’s leaves.
Another important aspect of using mulch is that a visible patch of mulch also helps remind people not to step or mow or run a string trimmer too close to the tree.
Step 12: Water it again. After the planting is finished come back in about an hour and water your new tree one more time. Look for more settling too, and fill in any new areas that may have settled.
Step 13: Tree Strength – If necessary, stake the tree for about the first year. It is important to make sure the stakes you use are loosely tied to the trunk so they do not dig into the bark or tighten around the tree. After the roots have a chance to become established, or after about the first year, remove the stakes. Staking a new tree helps to protect it from blowing over in the wind, and it can also help to remind people moving around the tree not to run into it, as some people may not be familiar with the new tree or it’s location.
Step 14: Long Term Health – Keep watering your tree for the first few years as it gets established. Depending on the climate and your area, it will need weekly watering until the roots are well established. To form deep roots, water deeply. A long, slow trickle of water will water more deeply than a quick sprinkling. Remember, deep roots help your tree to resist droughts and winds. Let the ground dry out, at least somewhat, between your watering intervals.
Step 15: Watch it Grow! – Enjoy your new tree as it grows over the years with you, your family and friends. Appreciate its shade and beauty and thank yourself for adding another tree to the world and learning how to plant a tree!
Keep tuned in as we have a special plan for next years Earth Day and Arbor Day as we will have more on how to plant a tree from seeds, and will be giving away trees!
We hope that how to plant a tree helps you and your family enjoy the beauty of growing a tree!