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Planting a Tree | How to Plant Trees




  • How to Plant Trees

          Proper placement of tree is critical for your enjoyment and their long-term survival. Before planting your tree, consider the tree's mature size. When the tree nears maturity, will it be too close to your house or other structures? Be considerate of your neighbors. An evergreen tree planted on the north side may block the sun from your next door neighbor. Will it provide too much shade for your vegetable and flower gardens? Most vegetables and many flowers require considerable amounts of sun. If you intend to grow these plants, consider how the placement of trees will affect these gardens. Will it obstruct driveways or sidewalks? Will it cause problems for buried or overhead utilities?


  • Planting a Tree

          A properly planted and maintained tree will grow faster and live longer than one that is incorrectly planted. Trees can be planted almost any time of the year as long as the ground is not frozen. Late summer or early fall is the optimum time to plant trees in many areas. This gives the tree a chance to establish new roots before winter arrives and the ground freezes. When spring arrives, the tree is ready to grow. The second choice for planting is late winter or early spring. Planting in hot summer weather should be avoided. Planting trees in frozen soil during the winter is difficult and tough on tree roots. When the tree is dormant and the ground is frozen, there is no opportunity for the growth of new tree roots.

          Trees are purchased as container grown, balled and burlapped (B&B), and bare root. Generally, container grown trees are the easiest to plant and successfully establish in any season, including summer. With container grown stock, the plant has been growing in a container for a period of time. When planting container grown trees, little damage is done to the roots as the tree is transferred to the soil. Container grown trees range in size from very small plants in gallon pots up to large trees in huge pots. B&B trees frequently have been dug from a nursery, wrapped in burlap, and kept in the nursery for an additional period of time, giving the roots opportunity to regenerate. B&B plants can be quite large. Bare root trees require special care. Because there is no soil on the roots, they must be planted when they are dormant to avoid drying out. The tree roots must be kept moist until planted. Bare root trees should be planted as soon as possible upon arrival.


          Carefully follow the planting instructions that come with your tree. If specific instructions are not available, follow these tips:


  • Dig a hole twice as wide as, and slightly shallower than, the root ball. Roughen the sides and bottom of the hole with a pick or shovel so that roots can penetrate the soil.

  • With a potted tree, gently remove the tree from the container. Lay the tree on its side with the container end near the planting hole. Hit the bottom and sides of the container until the root ball is loosened. If roots are growing in a circular pattern around the root ball, slice through the roots on a couple of sides of the root ball. With trees wrapped in burlap, remove the string or wire that holds the burlap to the root crown. It is unnecessary to completely remove the burlap. Plastic wraps must be completely removed. Gently separate circling roots on the root ball. Shorten exceptionally long roots, and guide the shortened roots downward and outward. Root tips die quickly when exposed to light and air, so don't waste time.

  • Place the root ball in the hole. Leave the top of the root ball (where the roots end and the trunk begins) 1/2 to 1 inch above the surrounding soil, making sure not to cover it unless roots are exposed. For bare root trees, make a mound of soil in the middle of the hole and spread the tree roots out evenly over the mound. Do not set trees too deep. As you add soil to fill in around the tree, lightly tamp the soil to collapse air pockets, or add water to help settle the soil. Form a temporary water basin around the base of the tree to encourage water penetration, and water thoroughly after planting. A tree with a dry root ball cannot absorb water; if the root ball is extremely dry, allow water to trickle into the soil by placing the hose at the base of the tree.

  • Mulch around the tree. A 3-foot diameter circle of mulch is common.


  • Maintenance

          For the first year or two, especially after a week or so of especially hot or dry weather, watch your trees closely for signs of moisture stress. If you see leaf wilting or hard, caked soil, water the trees well and slowly enough to allow the water to soak in. This will encourage deep root growth. Keep the area under the trees mulched.

          Some species of evergreen trees may need protection against winter sun and wind. A thorough watering in the fall before the ground freezes is recommended. Spray solutions are available to help prevent drying of tree foliage during the winter.

          Fertilization is usually not needed for newly planted trees. Depending on soil and growing conditions, fertilizer may be beneficial at a later time.


  • Pruning

          Usually, pruning is not needed on newly planted trees. As the tree grows, lower branches may be pruned to provide clearance above the ground, or to remove dead or damaged limbs or suckers that sprout from the trunk of the tree. Sometimes larger trees need pruning to allow more light to enter the canopy. Small branches can be removed easily with pruners. Large branches should be removed with a pruning saw. All cuts should be vertical. This will allow the tree to heal quickly without the use of sealants. Major pruning should be done in late winter or early spring. At this time the tree is more likely to "bleed" as sap is rising through the plant. This is actually healthy and will help prevent invasion by many disease organisms. Heavy pruning in the late summer or fall may reduce the tree's winter hardiness. Removal of large branches can be hazardous. If in doubt about your ability to prune properly, contact a professional with the proper equipment.

          Under no circumstance should trees be topped. Not only does this practice ruin the natural shape of the tree, but it increases susceptibility to diseases and results in very narrow crotch angles, the angle between the trunk and the side branch. Narrow crotch angles are weaker than wide ones and more susceptible to damage from wind and ice. If a large tree requires major reduction in height or size, contact a professionally trained arborist. There are other methods to selectively remove large branches without sacrificing the health or beauty of the tree.



    Resources: Dogwood Trees - How to Build a Compost Bin - How to Build a Greenhouse
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