Proper Tree Planting Techniques

The tree you just purchased is a lifetime investment. How well it grows depends largely on the type of tree you got and where you put it. In this article, we’re going to focus on proper tree planting techniques so if you do decide to do it yourself, you’re doing it the right way. We care about your trees.

The ideal time to plant a tree is during the dormant season, or winter. Basically, you can plant a tree in late fall through early spring. Weather conditions are usually cool and allow plants to establish new roots in the location before spring rain and summer heat stimulate new top growth. Of course, trees that are well cared for in the nursery or garden center can essentially be planted whenever. If you have questions, we suggest you call us at 512-341-8888. We are experts at tree planting.

So, what are the steps to proper tree planting? Let’s find out.

  1. Dig a shallow, broad planting hole. Make the hole wide, about three times the diameter of the root ball. However, you should only make the hole as deep as the root ball. It is important to make the hole wide so that roots can grow in the soil. This is especially important if your soil is compacted or otherwise unhealthy.
  2. Identify the trunk flare. The trunk flare is where the roots spread at the base of the tree. This point should be partially visible after the tree has been planted. If it’s not, then you should remove some soil from the top of the root ball. Make sure you find the trunk flare so you can plant your tree properly.
  3. Place the tree at its proper height. Before placing the tree in the hole, make sure that you’ve dug the hole to the proper depth but not more than that. The majority of roots on a newly planted tree will develop in the top 12 inches of soil. If the tree is planted too deeply, new roots will have difficulty developing due to a lack of oxygen. To avoid damage when setting the tree in the hole, always lift the tree by the root ball and not the trunk.
  4. Straighten the tree in the hole. For proper tree planting, you should have someone view the tree from several different directions to ensure that the tree is straight. You don’t want to plant a slanted or crooked tree. Do this before you begin backfilling because, after that point, it’s difficult to move the tree.
  5. 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. If the tree is balled and burlapped, cut and remove the string and wire from around the trunk and the top third of the root ball. Be careful not to damage the roots in the process. Fill in the remained of the hole, taking care to firmly pack soil to eliminate air pockets that can cause roots to dry out. To avoid this, you can add the soil a few inches at a time and settle it with water. You should continue this process until the hole is filled and the tree is firmly planted. Do not apply fertilizer at the time of planting. It’s not necessary.
  6. Stake the tree, if necessary. If the tree is grown and properly dug at the nursery, staking for support should not be necessary. In fact, studies show that trees that are NOT staked establish more quickly and develop stronger trunk and root systems. However, protective staking may be necessary on sites where lawn mower damage, vandalism or windy conditions are problems. If you need to stake the tree, use two stakes in conjunction with a wide, flexible tie material that will hold the tree upright, provide flexibility and limit injury to the trunk. After the first year of growth, you can remove the staking.
  7. Mulch the base of the tree. Mulch is organic matter that you apply to the area at the base of the tree. It acts as a sort of blanket to protect the tree by holding moisture, moderating soil temperatures extremes both hot and cold, and reduces competition from grass and weeds. Some good choices for mulch are leaf litter, pine straw, shredded bark, peat moss or wood chips. A 2-to-4 inch layer is ideal. More than 4 inches can cause a problem with oxygen and moisture levels. When you put the mulch down, make sure that the base isn’t covered. Doing so can cause decay of the living bark at the base of the tree. A mulch-free area, about 1 to 2 inches wide at the base of the tree, is sufficient to avoid most bark conditions and prevent decay.
  8. Provide follow-up care. Keep your soil moist but not soaked. Why? Overwatering can cause your leaves to turn yellow or fall off. Give your new tree the equivalent of an inch of rain per week. If you receive an inch of rain in a given week, you needn’t water the tree. More frequent waterings should be conducted during extreme heat. Continue the watering process until mid-fall, tapering off for lower temperatures. Other follow-up care may include pruning your branches that were damaged during the planting process. Prune sparing immediately after planting and wait to do corrective pruning until after a full season of growth in the new location.

We hope these proper planting techniques will help you plant your trees properly. If you have any questions or want an expert to plant your trees, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Austin Tree Service is here for you.