Planting a tree has many intricate steps. You will want to follow these.
1. Dig a planting hole for your tree that is as deep as the root ball but three times wider. You may want to place your excavated soil on a tarp nearby.
2. Add a granular high-phosphate fertilizer, such as bone-meal or granular Ortho® Upstart, to the bottom of the planting hole and mix it in with the soil. At the same time, loosen the soil on the sides of the planting hole so that there are no shiny or smooth surfaces which would be difficult for the new roots to penetrate.
3. Fill the planting hole with water and allow it to drain.
4. Set the plant in the planting hole. Check to make sure that the top of the root ball is level with the ground outside of the planting hole. Most trees are very particular about being planted too deep. Make sure that the crown (the trunk-root juncture) will not be covered with soil.
5. Optional: If your soil is very poor or sandy, amend the backfill soil with peat moss or compost (about 1 part to 3 parts soil). This added organic matter will improve the aeration and moisture retention of your soil as your tree sends out new roots.
6. Backfill around the sides of the hole until it is about 2/3 full. Tamp this soil in with the handle end of your shovel and then compact further by stepping on it. Shovel in more soil to fill the planting hole and again tamp in with your shovel handle and compact by stepping on it.
7. Construct a shallow basin around the tree by mounding soil in a circle around the outer perimeter of the root area.
Place the tree, pot and all, into the hole; slit the sides of the pot and gently pull the pot away from the root ball. (If the root ball appears solid or tightly rooted, you may be able to pull the tree from the pot (CAREFULLY). Once the tree is free from the pot, loosen and spread any tightly wound roots.
These pots usually contain trees with loose, immature root systems. In order to keep the root ball intact, it is best to plant the tree without removing the pot. But before planting the pot, you must first remove the bottom circle of the pot and cut several holes in the side of the pot. Position the tree in the hole so that the ground around the planting hole is level with the soil in the pot (not the rim of the fiber pot). Peel off the rim of the pot below the soil line.
Balled and Burlapped Trees
Before placing the tree in the hole, measure and compare the height of the root ball with the depth of the planting hole to make sure that you will not have to remove the tree several times to adjust the planting depth. These trees are usually very heavy. Once the root ball is in place, remove all twine from the root ball and most of the burlap from the top of the ball. Slash holes in the remaining burlap. The top-most wires may be bent back or removed with wire-cutters.
Immediately after the tree is planted, water it thoroughly with a mixture of water and a low-analysis fertilizer, such as Ortho® Upstart. This, combined with the high phosphorous fertilizer which you added to the planting hole, should be all the fertilization required for the first year.
During the first year after transplanting, your new tree will require special attention to insure that its roots do not dry out. You must make an effort to keep the root ball and the soil surrounding it moist at all times, due to the fact that it has a very limited, concentrated root area. Until it has rooted out further and is better able to draw moisture from the surrounding soil, it is up to you to provide adequate and timely waterings. Keeping this in mind, here are some watering tips to consider:
1. Water your new tree at least twice a week. During hot, dry, or windy weather, water more often.
2. Apply enough water to completely saturate the new root ball. Don ‘t depend on a sprinkler to water deep enough.
3. The best way to water any tree is with a Ross Root-feeder because the water is applied where it is needed close to the root area, and can’t run off or evaporate. A root-feeder is especially useful for balled and burlapped evergreen trees or any tree that is planted on sloping ground.
4. The next best way to water is to allow a slow-running hose to run for an hour or so into the basin above the root area.
5. DON’T OVER-WATER. In heavy clay soils, water with enough water to saturate the root ball but water it less often. In fast-draining, sandy soils, apply enough water to saturate the root ball but water it more often. Too much water will flush soil nutrients away from the tree’s root system.
6. Mist or spray the foliage of your tree at least as often as you water. This will cool the plant and offset some moisture loss due to transpiration.
7. A mulch over the surface of the soil will help in maintaining a more constant moisture level. This mulch may be ground bark or compost applied directly over the soil, or decorative rock or bark chips atop a landscape fabric.
8. After September 1, water your new trees half as often to allow them to harden off for winter. After the leaves have dropped (about November), water the tree heavily before the ground freezes in order to prevent winter desiccation (especially of evergreens).
Some young trees must be staked after planting in order to keep the root ball from shifting in the round and disturbing the new root growth. Trees that are most often staked are those that are “top-heavy” and offer too much wind-resistance or trees that have very flexible trunks. Trees may be staked between two posts on either side of the tree or by three guy-wires running from the tree to the ground. Ties that attach the tree to the guy-wires or the stakes must be of a material that will not chafe or cut into the bark. Make sure that the ties are loose enough to allow some movement of the trunk in the wind. This helps the tree develop a sturdy trunk. Remove the stakes and ties the spring following planting. By then the tree should have developed a root system that will anchor the tree on its own.
Wrapping the trunks of young trees will protect their tender, thin bark from several types of damage. Most often, trees are wrapped in order to prevent winter sun-scald, a burning of the trunk on its sunny side. Another danger is frost cracking of the bark, caused by sunny winter days followed by very cold nights. Commercial tree wrap made of heavy brown paper is applied to the tree by spiraling the wrap around the trunk from the ground to the first branches. Secure the wrap by taping around the top and bottom of the spiral. Remove the wrap in the spring when new growth starts. Young trees are often the victims of rabbits or deer that chew on the bark, especially in the winter. To save trees from being girdled, a tree wrap made of plastic or steel mesh works best. Lawn mowers or weed-eaters often damage young tree which are planted in a lawn. Protect your trees with a “boot” of heavy plastic, called an arbor-guard, which wraps around the bottom 10 inches of the tree.