Planting trees is a lot of fun and an all around rewarding experience. The tree you plant will live for decades, maybe even centuries, providing shade, fresh air, deep green leaves, and fiery fall foliage for generations to come. But planting a tree is a lot more than just sticking a tree in the ground and adding some water. There are a series of things you must take into consideration and some fairly specific steps to follow for tree planting.
What type of tree should I plant?
Determining the type of tree you should plant is possibly the most important step in the process. Not every tree will thrive in every location. Consult your local city or university for recommendations regarding what types of trees grow well in your region, what types of trees are native, where they can be planted, and how to care for them once planted.
When to plant a tree
Timing is important when planting trees. Many trees, like fruit trees, do best when planted in spring or early summer. But some trees, like maples, can be planted in the fall as well. Once you’ve selected a type of tree to plant, do some research on when you should be planting it. If you’re visiting a tree nursery, the staff there should be well-versed in the needs of each tree.
How to plant a tree
So you’ve got your tree selected. Your spot is picked out and your shovel is in hand. Now what are the steps to planting your tree?
1. Call before you dig. Contact your local utility company and ask them to do a quick survey to make sure there are no lines running underground at your planting site. You definitely don’t want to accidentally strike a utility line or pipe while digging! It is also recommended that you do not plant trees under power lines.
2. Dig your hole. The hole for planting a tree should be about three times as wide as the root ball itself. Loosening up the soil immediately surrounding the root ball will help new roots get established.
3. Remove the container your tree’s root ball is housed in. Sometimes it’s burlap, sometimes a pot. Whatever the case, make sure that only the root ball remains before you plant it. Don’t leave the bag on it.
4. Make sure the ‘flare’ of the trunk is placed exactly at ground level. The flare is where the trunk begins to curve outward at the base of the tree. Ensure that the tree is not leaning or planted too deeply.
5. Fill in the hole with soil, but don’t pack it down too tightly. Just firmly enough that the tree is stable and secure. As you’re refilling the hole, you can add a bit of water periodically to help set the soil and root out any air bubbles.
6. Stake your tree if you feel it might be toppled by the wind or an animal. There is some research that indicates that unstaked trees will grow a stronger trunk and better roots, so you should stake your tree only if you feel you need to.
7. Add a bit of mulch. Some organic matter mulched around the base of your tree will protect the roots from damage during periods of excessive heat or cold. It will also help reduce evaporation from the soil during hot, summer days.
After you plant your tree
Once you’ve planted your tree, most of the work is done and the tree will do the rest. But keep a close eye on it. Be prepared to stake the tree if it starts to lean and, if it’s been hot and dry, be sure to give your tree water. If winters where you live are cold and dry, you may want to provide some extra water during particularly dry spells.