"How To"

While planting each of these different types of trees differs in the details, all trees eventually end up in a hole. But not any old hole will do. The most common mistake when planting a tree is a digging hole, which is both too deep and too narrow. Too deep and the roots don't have access to sufficient oxygen to ensure proper growth. Too narrow and the root structure can't expand sufficiently to nourish and properly anchor the tree. As a general rule, trees should be transplanted no deeper than the soil in which they were originally grown. The width of the hole should be at least 3 times the diameter of the root ball or container or the spread of the roots in the case of bare root trees. This will provide the tree with enough worked earth for its root structure to establish itself. When digging in poorly drained clay soil, it is important to avoid 'glazing'. Glazing occurs when the sides and bottom of a hole become smoothed forming a barrier, through which water has difficulty passing. To break up the glaze, use a fork to work the bottom and drag the points along the sides of the completed hole. Also, raising the centre bottom of the hole slightly higher than the surrounding area. This allows water to disperse, reducing the possibility of water pooling in the planting zone.

Planting Balled and Burlapped Trees

Balled and burlapped (B & B) trees, although best planted as soon as possible, can be stored for some time after purchase as long as the ball is kept moist and the tree stored in a shady area. B & B trees should always be lifted by the ball, never by the trunk. The burlap surrounding the ball of earth and roots should either be cut away completely (mandatory, in the case of synthetic or plastic burlap) or at least pulled back from the top third of the ball (in the case of natural burlap). Any string or twine should also be removed. Backfill soil (combinations of peat moss, composted manure, topsoil, etc.) is then placed in the hole surrounding the tree just to the height of the ball or slightly lower to allow for some settling. Be careful not to compress the back fill soil as this may prevent water from reaching the roots and the roots from expanding beyond the ball.

Planting Bare-Rooted Trees

Planting bare-rooted trees is a little different as there is no soil surrounding the roots.  Most importantly, the time between purchase and planting is a more critical issue.  Plant as soon as possible.  When purchasing bare-rooted trees, inspect the roots to ensure that they are moist and have numerous lengths of fine root hairs (healthy).  Care should be taken to ensure that the roots are kept moist in the period between purchase and planting.  Prune broken or damaged roots but save as much of the root structure as you can. To plant, first build a cone of earth in the centre of the hole around which to splay the roots.  Make sure that when properly seated on this cone the tree is planted so that the 'trunk flare' is clearly visible and the 'crown', where the roots and top meet, is about two inches above the soil level.  This is to allow for natural settling.

Water, Mulch and Fertilizer

Watering Newly planted trees should be watered at the time of planting. In addition, during the first growing season, they should be watered at least once a week in the absence of rain, more often during the height of the summer. However, care should be taken not to overwater as this may result in oxygen deprivation. If you are uncertain as to whether a tree needs watering, dig down 6-8 inches at the edge of the planting hole. If the soil at that depth feels powdery or crumbly, the tree needs water. Adequately moistened soil should form a ball when squeezed. Regular deep soakings are better than frequent light wettings. Moisture should reach a depth of 12 to 18 inches below the soil surface to encourage ideal root growth. One new way to ensure a constant supply of moisture is through the use of superabsorbent polymer crystals that absorb moisture when the surrounding soil is moist, and release it again when the soil dries out.  Mulching To conserve moisture and promote water and air penetration, the back filled soil surrounding newly-planted trees can be covered with mulch consisting of material such as bark, wood chips or pine needles (although the acidity associated with pine needles is not suited for many plants). Mulch depth should be between 3 to 4 inches. Do not, under any circumstances, cover the area surrounding the tree with plastic sheeting since air and water movement are prevented. Porous landscape fabric can be used since it freely allows water and air penetration. Fertilizer Since all soils have a history, it can be beneficial to get soil analyzed properly for macronutrients such as Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K), micronutrients, pH, soil type, and drainage. Although many trees survive without fertilizer at time of planting, the majority of plants suffer root loss and stress associated with movement between ideal nursery grown conditions and the final planting.   To compensate for root loss during planting and to alleviate transplant shock, treat your trees with mycorrhizal fungi and fertilizers with the right formulation for the type of tree you are planting.  A biostimulant can also aid in root development and general tree health.

Staking and Guy-Wiring

Young trees should be able to support their own weight, but when they are transplanted, they often need time to reestablish themselves.  Also, many nurseries plant their trees very close together to maximize use of space and stake them to promote height growth at the expense of trunk strength.  When shopping for trees, look for trees with branches all along the trunk - not just at the top. Once a tree is planted, it will concentrate its energy on standing upright.  If it is unable to do so, try thinning out the upper branches to reduce wind resistance.  If that is not enough and you find you have to stake a tree, remember the following" 1. Only stake the tree long enough for it to be able stand on its own.  2.  Stakes should not be too tight - there should be room for the tree to sway in the wind. 3. Stakes should not be too loose - the tree should not rub against the stakes. 4. Stakes should be buried at least 1.5 feet underground to provide ample support.

Wrapping and Pruning

Wrapping Wrapping refers to the technique of winding a crepe-type paper around the barks of trees. Generally speaking, you only need to consider doing this in the northern United States and Canada to prevent the 'sun-scalding' of thin-barked trees like soft maples and crabapples during the first one or two winters after planting. Commercial tree-wrap is sold at nurseries and in garden-supply stores. To wrap a tree, start at the bottom and wind the paper around the tree to the level of the second branch. Fasten the paper at the top with a tack. Don't forget to remove the wrapping each spring to prevent moisture buildup, disease and insect infestation. Pruning Use restraint when pruning your newly-planted trees. Prune only to remove damaged or broken branches. Do not prune the top of the tree as this may alter the structure of the tree excessively (check species requirements) and may hamper carbohydrate production.  Do not paint the cuts with compounds (e.g. Latex) that prevent air from accessing the wound, thereby slowing the healing process.

Transplanting Trees

There is always danger in moving plant material from one location to another.  Root material is sacrificed, and depending on the previous state of the plant, this can be a severe stress.   If necessary, it is possible to transplant trees from one area of your property to another. The key lies in ensuring that the tree to be transplanted has a good healthy root ball and that the tree and ball together are not unmanageably heavy. •  Start by tying the branches together loosely. •  Then dig a two-foot deep trench around the tree at least one foot larger than the size of the root ball (or as much intact viable root material as practical). Once the trench is dug, undercut around the shrub. Carefully prune the roots extending from the ball as you dig down. •  When the ball is partially exposed, begin to wrap the ball in burlap starting from the base of the tree down using twine to secure the wrapping. Keep digging until the ball is undercut and sitting on a soil pedestal. •  Then carefully tilt the tree and ball and finish wrapping and securing the burlap underneath. •  Then carefully tilt the tree and ball and finish wrapping and securing the burlap underneath. To help your tree establish itself when transplanted, treat the planting area with mycorrhizal fungi, a specially formulated fertilizer and biostimulant. The do-it-yourself approach is useful only for small trees. For large trees, hire a professional who has the specialized equipment and knowledge to do the job safely.


Well that wasn't so difficult, was it?  Now all you have to do is remember that it can take a year or more for newly planted trees to adjust to their new surroundings.  During that time, you should make sure that they are receiving sufficient water.  In some cases, you may want to fertilize as necessary.

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How to PLANT A TREE...

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