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Plants in the Garden

How do I properly plant a tree?

Planting a tree correctly will get the tree off to a good start and many disease problems can be avoided by proper planting.

The first consideration is the soil. Dig a hole in the area where you will be planting, fill the hole with water, the water should drain through the soil within 24 hours. If the water does not drain within 24 hours then you will need to do some additional work to insure good drainage. Tree roots need water and air, just like us, compacted soil limits the amount of air and water that can penetrate into the soil. You can open the soil up by ripping and spreading compost over the top of the soil and into the ripped areas. The life in the compost along with plant roots will open the soil up more over time. Do this at least two weeks before you plant to allow the soil to settle.

The second consideration is planting depth. A common mistake is to plant too deep. Measure the depth of the soil in the container; plant the tree 2 inches less than the depth of the soil in the container or the depth of the soil ball. The tree will settle after it is planted, you do not the crown settling below the soil grade. Over time a tree planted too deeply may develop crown rot.

The third consideration is planting the tree. Make the planting hole at least twice the diameter of the container or root ball. If the soil is compacted make the planting hole at least three to four times the diameter. Slope the sides of the hole slightly inward towards the root ball and loosen the sides of the planting hole to allow the roots to penetrate out into the soil surrounding the planting hole. Backfill with the soil that was removed from the planting hole, this is the soil the tree will be growing in and you want to encourage the roots out into the surrounding soil. If you backfill with amended soil or imported soil mixes you are essentially creating a pot, the roots may not want to move out into the native soil. Take care special care around the root crown; make sure it is raised above elevation by 2".

The fourth consideration is watering the tree. Take care to create a water basin that drains water away from the base of the tree. Water more frequently and shallowly until roots get established. A newly planted tree may need to be water twice a week during the summer. Take care not to over water, take extra care if you have compacted soil as it is easy to create a water logged condition in compacted soil, remember your tree needs air and water to thrive.

The fifth consideration is feeding and protecting the soil. Apply a thin ¼" layer of compost, like Diestel Structured Compost or Vermi Green Compost over the top of the soil and then apply 2" layer of mulch like Wood Chips or a mix of Wood Chips and Fir Bark over the top of the compost. Be sure and keep the compost and the mulch away from the base of the tree by 3" or so. The compost will feed the life in the soil and the mulch will hold moisture in the ground and provide food to life in the soil over time.

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