One of the common questions around tree planting is “how to plant a tree in the spring” and there are a number of answers!
Some of the disparity in responses to that question has to do with what type of tree, geography, and personal preferences. However, you really can’t go wrong (most of the time!) by planting your tree in the spring.
Even Bob Vila agrees,
“You often see landscaping companies busily putting in trees during spring and fall, which may lead you to believe that both seasons are perfect for your own project. Good times, maybe. Perfect times? Not exactly. Despite the fact that both seasons boast mild weather that won’t scorch or freeze delicate young roots, there are several reasons why spring is often the best time to plant a tree.”
In the article, Vila goes on to point out that, among other things, spring is a popular time to get out in the yard, nurseries stock up in spring, and some trees may not take root in the fall.
When’s The Best Time to Plant a Tree?
Twenty years ago. And when’s the next best time? Right now, as the old saying goes.
One of the great things about planting a tree – and there are many – is that you can do it yourself. Assuming your tree can be physically handled by one or maybe two people, the actual chore of successfully planting it is not that complicated.
This is not to say that it’s easy, however. Tree planting equates with “hole digging” and that in itself can be difficult. But, let’s assume for the purpose of this article that you have purchased a tree and are ready to plant it. What do you do?
Step One: Prepare the Planting Hole
A good rule of thumb when preparing any hole for planting is to make it three times wider than the tree’s root mass, but no deeper than it was growing in its previous environment such as a container.
Locate the point at which the trunk flares out to join the roots. This is known as the “trunk flare.” If needed, remove any excess soil from the top of the root ball to expose the trunk flare. When planting is complete, the trunk flare should be slightly above the existing soil grade.
Step Two: Planting the Tree
When you’re ready to move your tree to the planting hole, carry it by the container or the ropes or netting around the root ball. Never lift plants by the trunk, stems or branches. If need be, you can carry large trees with rope slings.
Place the tree in the center of the hole and, if needed, straighten or stabilize it by adding soil beneath the root ball with the backfill. Before completely filling the hole with the backfill soil, be sure to cut away any twine or burlap from the base of the trunk and remove any burlap that is on the top of the root ball.
If your tree’s root ball is in a wire basket use bolt cutters to remove as much of the basket as possible. You don’t need to remove all of it, however, as your tree will be fine even with some of the wire left in the hole. If the root ball is contained with rope and twine, remove these along with any nails holding the burlap together.
Cut away any loose burlap material, but know that it’s okay if some burlap remains in the hole to decompose. However, be sure to remove any plastic or treated burlap.
A thought on backfill soil: according to an article at Gardeners.com,
“The thinking on backfill has changed in recent years. Although it was once common to modify the backfill soil with amendments — such as compost, peat moss, aged manure and other ingredients — it is now considered best practice to leave the backfill unaltered or add minimal amendments. This encourages roots to spread out into the native soil, rather than staying within the confines of the planting hole.”
Step Three: Backfilling and Watering
Fill the hole gently, but firmly, packing the soil to eliminate air pockets that may dry out roots. Watering periodically while backfilling helps eliminate air pockets that could otherwise result in dead roots or worse. Avoid fertilization at the time of planting.
While backfilling, be sure to keep the trunk vertical and the trunk flare sitting slightly above ground level once your backfilling is complete. Continue adding backfill and packing it down until you’ve reached the top of the root ball, taking care not to cover the trunk flare.
Finally, water again gently but thoroughly once all the soil is in place. Generally speaking, you should water trees at least once a week, unless it’s raining, and even more often during hot, windy weather. Be sure to keep the soil moist, but not water-logged.
Step Four: Mulching and Staking
Mulching is important for the health and growth of young trees. Typically, mulch is organic matter that is spread around the base of a tree to hold moisture, moderate soil temperature extremes, and reduce competition from grass and weeds.
Apply mulch to a depth of two to three inches over the entire planting hole. Taper the mulch toward the base of the tree, but it shouldn’t touch the tree trunk.
Staking at planting time is not always necessary. In fact, data has shown that trees establish more quickly and develop stronger trunk and root systems if they are not staked right when they’re planted. When determining whether to stake your tree sooner than later, consider the stability of the rootball, the size and strength of the trunk, the size and density of the tree canopy, and the typical amount of wind.
If in doubt, ask a tree installation professional at Northview Landscaping.
We hope this information has helped you to decide when to plant your new trees. And, if you would rather have your tree installation done professionally, we’ll be glad to help you out with that. Our plant installation services cover all kinds of plants, trees included.
If you still have questions, or if you’d like to schedule a consultation about tree planting or your next landscaping project, contact the professional landscape designers and plant installers at Northview Landscaping today.