How to Plant a Tree

Post-Planting Care Tips

Please Don’t Just Walk Away

Congratulations! You did your research, bought the right tree for the right location, and planted it properly.

Too often, however, homeowners forget about their new addition to the landscape as soon as they put their tools away.

Post-planting care is absolutely required if your investment in a shade or ornamental tree is to grow for years to come.

Water
For at least one to two years after planting, trees should receive about 1 inch of water per week during the growing season. During hot and dry weather, supplemental irrigation is essential for tree establishment. A note of caution, however, excessive water can be as much of a problem and probably kills more plants than does a water deficiency. To help determine when watering is needed, plant a drought-indicator plant in the rootball of the tree. Plants such as impatiens, coleus and ajuga wilt dramatically. If these plants are planted into the rootball of the tree, the tree can be watered whenever the indicator plant has been in shade for at least one hour and is still wilted.

Grass and weeds
It is best to remove as much grass and weeds from around the newly planted tree as possible. Grass and weed roots will compete with the tree's roots for water, oxygen and nutrients in the soil. Replace removed grass and weeds with wood chips or bark mulch.

Wood chips/Bark mulch
Mulch should be maintained for at least a year at a depth of 2 to 4 inches. In addition to helping to maintain moisture and reducing competition from weeds and grass, mulches may reduce the possibility of lawn mower damage. Caution: Do not mulch right up to the tree's trunk. Leave a buffer zone of 4 to 6 inches. Mulch against the trunk can create an environment favorable to fungi.

Guying and staking
Guys or stakes should only be used when necessary, such as when roots are not solid in the planting hole or where the tree could be dislodged by high winds. In most instances, the weight of the root ball is sufficient to hold the tree in place, assuming it was properly planted. Guys or stakes should be secured to the tree using a wire through a hose and attaching the guy or stake wires at that point. Normal attachment is at two-thirds the height of the tree. To avoid girdling the tree stem, guys and stakes should be removed after one year or earlier if the wire causes problems. Guys and/or stakes are often forgotten and years later when the tree starts its decline, we find wires girdling the tree.

Planting trees is the single best “investment” a community or property owner can make to improve the environment and the value of a neighborhood. Learning how to plant a tree properly will ensure you haven't wasted your time and/or money.

OK. Now you know how to plant a tree, but why plant a tree? City planners plant trees for environmental reasons. Trees have a tremendous cooling effect on a community. Their leaves catch the rays of the sun and absorb much of the heat in order to produce food. In much the same way trees reduce soil erosion. Their leaves catch the falling rain droplets, absorbing some of the water and slowing the rest of the water down. In addition, tree roots hold the valuable soil from washing away with the rain.

It’s a win-win situation. You increase property value and help protect the environment!

By learning how to plant a tree properly and by taking care of your existing trees around your house, you're improving living conditions now and for generations to come.


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