How to Plant A Tree

After you've run out and gotten your tree you have to plant it. Let's assume you've selected the right location for the tree. Large trees should not be located too close to structures or underneath power lines. Always remember that the roots of the tree often extend past the drip line of the tree. (The drip line is the edge of the tree's canopy.)

Trees typically come one of three ways from the nursery: potted, balled and burlapped, or bare root. Most nurseries sell the potted trees or balled and burlapped but if you ordered yours through the mail or online it will probably come bare root. Both types of trees are easy to plant. Here's what I do:

  1. Dig the hole just slightly deeper than the size of the root ball and about 6 inches wider than the root ball. (Just in case: The root ball is the area inside the pot where all the roots are!) I try to clear any sod around the surface of the hole and save it to patch holes in the yard.
  2. Check the hole to make sure it is deep enough. You want the crown of the roots to be just above the soil when everything is planted so don't dig too deep. If you dig too deep just backfill with some of the original soil.
  3. Rough up all the edges of the hole with your shovel, a spade, or a pitch fork. This loosens the soil for the roots to grow through. Just take your tool and poke grooves or holes in the sides and the bottom.
  4. Water the hole a little. This will make sure that some water gets to the roots after planting.
  5. Take the tree from it's pot and loosen up the root ball. If there are any roots that are pot bound (where they are circling the inside of the pot) pull them loose so they can try to grow naturally out into the soil of your yard.
  6. Put the root ball into the planting hole and fill it with the original soil from the excavation of the hole. Don't add amendments to the tree hole since that will encourage the roots to remain in the hole instead of branching out into the ground around the hole.
  7. Pat down the soil on the top to get rid of any air pockets around the roots.
  8. Water thoroughly. Add a little more soil then water again. The first watering will help to settle the soil then you can add some more soil where things have settled.
  9. Mulch around the planting hole with up to 2 inches of mulch. Mulch will protect your soil from drying out and added organic nutrients to the soil as it breaks down. Be sure to leave a space around the trunk of your tree to prevent it from fungal problems.
  10. Water frequently over the first year of its life in your yard. Its roots are not well established enough to support itself without help from you.

Planting bareroot trees is a little different. Since there is no extra soil around the roots you have to build a small mound in the hole and lay the roots over the mound. Then fill the hole with the original soil. Just make sure that the root crown stays slightly above the ground.

Here's a few don'ts:
Now go plant your tree!

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