Proper Tree Planting
My name is Nathan Taylor. I am an ISA Certified Arborist and the Central Mississippi Regional Manager for Fulgham’s Inc. I am also a Landscape Contracting graduate from Mississippi State University. With numerous years experience in Landscaping and Arboriculture, Proper Tree Planting brings to mind several essential elements associated with planting a tree: Proper Tree Selection, Proper Tree Placement, Proper Tree Pruning and Structure, and Proper Tree Maintenance. I plan to address these issues separately in later Blog Posts. Each element, along with correct planting, is necessary to help ensure longevity of the tree in its final location. While these topics are all important, I am going to first talk about Proper Tree Planting.
Proper Tree Planting practices have been and are still today researched, taught, and publicized by many agricultural based universities and organizations. Numerous publications, literature and guides can be found on the web that can be useful in learning the best way to plant all kinds of different plant material. The planting of trees is usually not much different than that of planting other plants. Really though, how hard is it to plant a tree? I just pick any type tree I want, dig a hold, drop it in and forget about it, right? WRONG! Proper Tree Planting takes prior planning and maintenance care after planting to have a vigorous and healthy tree for future enjoyment and aesthetic pleasure. No one wants to have their tree(s) cause a hazard, greater expense, dismay, and/or eyesore on their property. When planting new trees or transplants, consider following these principles I have learned. I will expound on each of these at a later date.
First, have a soil analysis done of your planting area. This can be done by taking soil samples in the areas desired for planting and sending the samples to a soils lab to have them analyzed. The analysis will determine the pH of your soil, the nutrient content and availability of those nutrients for plant uptake, and soil texture. These are important facts to know. The type of soil you have and the nutrients available in that soil will dictate how well different types of trees will grow. Evaluate and correct soil problems before planting or they will affect your tree later.
Second, call 811 before you dig. 811 is a nationwide number that you can call to have all your underground utilities marked before you dig. Please do NOT assume you know where all your underground utilities lie. If you hit a line it may be fatal, let alone expensive and put a halt to your project.
Third, dig a large hole. Make it at least two to three times the width of the tree’s root ball. Find the top, main root and where it flares out from the trunk. That root-flare needs to be 1” to 2” above the surrounding grade. Do not make the hole deeper than the root ball, then backfill. If the soil is too soft under the tree, it will most likely settle over time and cause the tree to sink and be planted too deep. It is better to plant high and taper the soil out from the root ball than planting too deep. Planting deep can cause many problems which I can discuss in another post.
Fourth, only backfill with the native soil. Research has shown the addition of amendments at planting to be of little benefit. The tree has to get acclimated to the native soil at some point. If a particular tree has trouble growing in the native soil of the selected site, it may not need to be planted there. Consider a different variety or a completely different species that is adapted to your site’s environment.
Fifth, water regularly for the first year for good establishment, but do not overwater. Overwatering can cause rot and fungus. Water only as needed with deep soakings, letting the soil dry out some before the next soaking. This will help promote a deep root system that will be drought tolerant. Shallow, frequent watering promotes shallow roots, which can dry out easily. After the first year, most trees only need 1” of water per week.
Sixth, stake only when necessary. If the tree will not stand on its own or leans, staking may be required. Promptly remove all staking, wires, ties, and wraps after one year. Removal of staking is required to prevent girdling of the trunk and let the tree sway to build trunk girth and strength.
I hope this six point overview has given you a good sense of Proper Tree Planting. I will go into further detail on each point over the next year. Other things I will include will be techniques, tools, and pictures of dos and don’ts. Stay tuned!