Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Planting techniques that will help you get that healthy tree

Hazardous trees are usually avoidable. Another way to keep your tree from becoming a hazard is starting its life in your yard off right by planting it correctly. It has been said that anyone can plant a tree. While this may be true, not everyone knows how to plant a tree correctly. Here are some step-by-step instructions for planting a tree:

• When to Plant – The best time to plant a tree depends on the climate where you live. Usually the ideal time to plant trees during the dormant season when there are no leaves on the tree (for deciduous trees) say between November and April. Avoid planting trees in when the ground is frozen, or during hot, dry weather. Keep in mind that your local tree service will take care of the planting for if you would prefer.

• Getting Your Tree Home - Trees are often damaged or stressed during the trip home from the nursery. Take special care to reduce injuries when loading and unloading your tree. If you are using a pick-up or trailer, or leaving the car trunk open, protect the buds (or leaves) and needles from the wind by wrapping or covering them. Cushion stems and branches, particularly if they rub against the vehicle. Tie the tree securely and avoid high-speed travel.

• Temporary Storage - Plant your tree as soon as possible. If you must store it before planting, put it on the north side of a building away from direct sunlight and heat. Keep the roots or root ball moist to prevent the roots from drying out. If you can't plant the tree within 1 to 3 days, make arrangements to leave it at the nursery until you have time to plant it.

• Preparing the Planting Hole - Proper planting is the most important step. Many problems with a tree can be traced back to improper planting. Dig the hole at least 2 feet wider than the size of the container, root system or root ball. A large hole will allow better root growth and is especially important in compacted soils. Roughen the sides of the hole, which should be the same width at the top and bottom, and remove any rocks or debris.

• Planting the Tree - Planting depth is of critical importance. Trees often are planted too deep in the hole. Carefully set the tree in the hole at the same depth or slightly higher than it was at the nursery. Plant it with the root collar at ground level or slightly higher (2") to allow for settling. The graphic above right shows the importance of digging a big enough hole to allow the roots to extend out into the soil around the planting site.

• Planting B&B Trees - When placing a B&B tree in the hole, always support the root ball with your hands and gently place the tree in the hole to test for proper depth. Never drop the tree on the ground or in the hole as this disturbs the root ball and can break the roots. The root flare and top of the soil ball indicate the original planting depth. Take care not to loosen or break the soil ball. Cut and remove all twine around the trunk. Pull or cut the burlap away from the trunk and top of the ball as far down as possible. Sometimes the root ball is wrapped with non-degradable fabric; be sure to cut away this fabric. If the root ball also is supported by a wire basket, bend or extend portions of the wire basket down below the soil surface level. Cut the wire away once the tree is in place at the proper depth.

• Planting Container trees - Container trees often have roots growing around the inside of the container. After removing the container, gently straighten the roots to avoid girdling root problems. The root flare and top of the soil ball indicate the original planting depth and the level at which you should plant the tree.

• Planting Bare-root trees - The key to successfully planting a bare-root tree is to keep the roots moist before planting. After digging the hole, mound some soil in the center. Set the root mass on top of this mound so the roots cascade downward in each direction. Again, where the root flare meets the trunk is where you will find the appropriate planting level.

• Backfilling the Hole - If you plan on staking your tree, drive two wooden or metal posts along the sides of the hole before you backfill. This prevents you from accidentally driving the stakes through the root ball and damaging the root system. Fill the hole with soil about one-half full, lightly tamping it with your foot to remove any air pockets. Make sure the tree is standing upright and not leaning. Water slowly to saturate the soil and remove any remaining air pockets, then finish filling the hole with soil. Remove any extra soil rather than mounding it around the tree. Build a temporary berm at the drip line to hold water around the root system.

• Soil Amendments - Amendments are additions to the soil that enhance its moisture-holding capacity, nutrient availability, or structure. Amendments include good loamy topsoil, peat moss, and various kinds of mulches. Most soils -- except sandy soil, soil with a high clay content, or soil that has been heavily disturbed by construction -- don't require amendments. Additions of organic matter will help clay soil. This soil is easily compacted which obstructs the movement of water and air. Mixing in organic matter helps break up clay particles and improves water and air flow around the roots.

• Fertilization - Contrary to popular belief, you don't need to fertilize trees when you plant them. However, if you want, you can use a well-balanced (for example, a 10-10-10 formulation), slow-release fertilizer in the planting hole. Slow-release fertilizers have a long-lasting effect and are less likely to burn the roots. Other fertilizers can accentuate transplant shock. Never use lawn fertilizers in a planting hole.

These helpful hints will make your tree planting project a successful one, and get the tree started on a long a productive life. 


Trees "R" Us, Inc. is a professional tree service in the Chicagoland area.  We service the north shore, north suburbs and northwest suburbs of Chicago.  Trees "R" Us, Inc. has 4 certified arborists on staff ready to assess your plants and tree care needs in a timely manner.  Our services include tree trimming, pruning, stump grinding, emergency tree services, tree removal, cabling and bracing, fertilization and plant health care.

Trees "R" Us, Inc. can be contacted at 847-913-9069 or through our online forms at www.treesrusinc.com.

Thanks for reading,
Nick