How to Plant a Tree

Before planting the tree, consider the ultimate size of the tree and assess whether it will fit the spot you have chosen.  It is also important to call 1-800-MISS-DIG to be sure you will not be interfering with any buried power lines.

It is also important to determine the type of soil you have.  Not all people are lucky enough to have rich loamy well-drained top soil where everything thrives without a lot of effort.  Sandy soils tend to dry out quickly and benefit by the addition of peat and/or top soil when planting the tree.  Clay soils, on the other hand, hold too much water and the roots may suffer from over-moisture.  We will address both planting methods.

While it is best to plant trees in the spring and fall, our pot-in-pot method of growing allows you to plant during the summer months as long as extra care is taken to plant properly, mulch and water diligently.

If you have sandy soil, the tree may be planted at grade level.  Simply dig a hole that is two times the width of the pot and 1-2 inches shorter than the pot.  Mix some peat and/or top soil with the soil you removed from the hole.  Take the tree out of the plastic container, and, using a utility knife, score three or four cuts about ½ inch deep vertically on the sides of the root ball.  Then place the tree in the center of the hole. Add water to the bottom of the hole.  Put half of the soil mixture around the root ball and water again.  Add more soil, making sure to cover the surface of the root ball by about an inch.  Do not bury the tree any deeper than it was originally planted in the pot.  Water thoroughly and add a bit more soil if it compresses with the watering.
The last step is to add mulch.  Two to three inches of wood chips or other mulch material around the base of the tree helps keep the moisture from evaporating.  Do not pack the mulch up against the truck of the tree as that can lead to rot.
Finally, be certain to give that tree a deep soaking once a week.  That’s roughly one inch of rain.  Do not rely on your lawn sprinkler to deep soak your tree.  Just put the hose end at the base of the tree and water at a low flow for about 10-15 minutes, once a week.

In clay soils, it is important to place the tree above grade to allow the roots to establish before being exposed to the wet sub-strata.  Thus, dig the hole about three times the width of the pot, but only 1/3 to ½ the depth of the pot.  Rough up the edges of the hole to allow the roots to penetrate the surrounding soil.  Then take the tree out of the plastic pot, score the root ball as explained above, and plant in the center of the hole.  Fill in around the root ball with some nice top soil, making certain to cover the root ball entirely and taper out gently to the edges of the wide hole.  (Do not use the heavy clay you dug out of the hole.)  Mulch the entire area to keep the soil from washing away, being careful not to pack the mulch around the trunk of the tree.  Water weekly, being careful not to overwater if the water is not being absorbed.

Here’s an easy test to determine if you have clay soil before you plant the tree.  Dig a narrow hole about 15-18" deep in the general area.  Fill it with water to the top.  If the water drains within a couple of hours, you can plant at grade as in sandy soils.  If you check back 7-8 hours later and the water is still close to the top, use the clay planting method.

Watering and Fertilization
Remember, it is important to continue watering the tree during the first several years until the tree is completely established.  It is best to fertilize with a slow release fertilizer which will not burn the roots during those early years.  Be sure to ask us about our Scotts Osmocote product for your trees.

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