How To Plant a Tree
Planting your new tree:
Before you begin planting your tree, be sure you have had all underground utilities located prior to digging. This service is free by calling 1-800-DIG-SAFE.
Identify the trunk flare. The trunk flare is where the roots spread away from the bottom of the trunk. Plant the tree so that the trunk flare is partially visible. If the trunk flare is not partially visible, you may have to remove some soil from the top of the root ball. Find the trunk flare so you can determine how deep the hole needs to be for proper planting. It is better to plant the tree a little high, 2 to 3 inches above the base of the trunk flare, than to plant it at or below the original growing level. This planting level will allow for some settling.
Dig a shallow, broad planting hole. Make the hole wide, as much as three times the diameter of the root ball but only as deep as the distance from the bottom of the root ball to the trunk flare. Make sure the bottom of the hole is firm by tamping several times with your foot.
Remove plastic or Rootmaker containers if necessary. Carefully cutting down the sides of the container may make this easier. Inspect the root ball for circling roots and cut or remove them. Expose the trunk flare, if necessary. Skip this step for trees in wire baskets.
Straighten the tree in the hole. Before you begin backfilling, have someone view the tree from several directions to confirm that the tree is straight. Once you begin backfilling, it is difficult to reposition the tree.
Fill the hole gently but firmly. Fill the hole about one-third full and gently but firmly pack the soil around the base of the root ball. Then remove the burlap and twine from around the trunk and all the way to the top edge of the root ball. Cut along the top of the rootball to remove the burlap from the top completely. Do not disturb the wire basket and leave the remainder of the burlap in place. Fill the rest of the hole, taking care to firmly pack soil to eliminate air pockets that may cause roots to dry out. It is not recommended to apply fertilizer at the time of planting.
Build a saucer around the tree, mulch the area and water. Create a soil berm (or saucer) around the tree, approximately 18” away from the trunk and 3-4” deep. Fill the berm with 2” of mulch, creating a circle of mulched area around the tree (keeping mowers and weedwackers away from the trunk!). When watering, fill the saucer several times, allowing the water to soak into the ground between fillings. Water the tree 2-3 times per week, filling the saucer 3-4 times at each watering.
Stake the tree, if necessary. If the tree is grown and dug properly at the nursery, staking for support will not be necessary in most home landscape situations. Studies have shown that trees establish more quickly and develop stronger trunk and root systems if they are not staked at the time of planting.
When questions arise about the care of your tree, be sure to consult with us for assistance. 413-549-8873
written by: John Kinchla