Ron Patterson watering the roots of a tree in his yard. | Ron Patterson, EastIdahoNews.com
The first decision you need to make before you purchase a tree is where to plant it. This will have a bearing on the size and ornamental features you want in that location. Location will also have a bearing on future pruning: “The first step to proper pruning is to plant the right tree in the right place.”
So, what is the right place? First of all, consider the mature size of the tree, stand at the desired site and:
Look up—will the full-grown tree interfere with any overhead utilities or structures?
Look down—call 811 several days before you plant to have any public underground utilities located—it’s free, and it’s the law.
Look around—as the tree reaches its full spread, will it interfere with buildings, other plants, or hardscaping? Be sure to consider sidewalks and retaining walls.
Site preparation—It’s pretty foolish to dig a $1 hole for a $75 tree.
Have a buffer zone of at least two feet between the trunk of the tree and the lawn. Lawn mowers and line trimmers do a lot of damage to tree trunks.
The hole you dig should be at least 2 – 3 times the diameter of the root ball.
Spread the roots out. Bare-root is best. I root-wash potted plants so that they are essentially bare root when I plant them. Make sure the roots are growing the right direction rather than all twisted and crossing. This may require a fair amount of root pruning. (I may do an article on root washing later.)
The hole should only be deep enough that the root flare is at, or slightly above, ground level. (Pull soil off the top of the root ball, whether potted or ball-and-burlap, to find the root flare.) A deep-dug hole that is backfilled with loose soil will allow the tree to settle deeper than it should. Trees that are planted too deeply will often result in the death of the tree in 5 – 10 years.
Ron Patterson | EastIdahoNews.com,
Time to get the tree into the ground—best if done with two or more people.
DO NOT add amendments to the backfill. Get the roots into the native soil quickly.
Hold the tree over the center of the hole with the root flare at, or slightly above, the surrounding soil level. In this position, the roots at the bottom should be resting firmly on the soil at the bottom of the hole. Plants with burlap should have the burlap and wire basket carefully removed at this point (remove the very bottom of the basket and burlap, set tree in place, remove the sides of basket and burlap).
Back fill one-quarter of the soil and settle the soil around the roots with a little water. Check to make sure the tree is still in position.
Backfill another one-quarter of the soil and settle with a little water. Check again.
Backfill another quarter, settle and check.
Finish your backfill and settle.
If you feel your tree needs to be staked follow these guidelines:
Do not make the staking rigid. Allow the tree enough room to flex slightly without lifting the roots.
Stake from at least the two most prevailing wind sides.
Remove the stakes after one year.
May you have fun getting new trees settled into your landscape.
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