Tree Planting: What Does Right Look Like?

The onset of cooler weather has seen leaves turn to various shades of oranges, yellows, and reds which set the Fall forest ablaze with color. All too quickly though those colors faded marking the onset of wintery conditions and a period of dormancy for trees. The best time for planting a tree is during this dormancy period. I have seen a lot of trees being planted at homes and larger municipal projects. Unfortunately, many of these trees have been carelessly planted in a rush which may lead to future problems.

This post will focus on how to properly plant a tree. Even though you may not be planting a tree yourself this information is important to know. Whether it’s a landscaper you hire personally, some new plantings on a city street, or fresh landscaping at your office you’ll be able to ensure that the job was done right. This saves both time and money in having to re-do a job or purchase additional material. In the absence of actually seeing the tree go into the ground I’ll provide some indicators that may point to an improperly planted tree.

1) Dig a hole slightly less than the depth of the root ball and two or three times as wide as the root ball.

2) When moving the tree into position, handle it by the root ball, not the trunk

3) Once the tree is in position cut away any binging twine, cut away the wire basket, cut the burlap at least 1/3 of the way down the root ball, and cut any roots that may have wound around the trunk. Doing this will allow the roots to grow outward unrestricted.

4) Make sure the tree is straight and then firmly pack soil around the root ball to ensure there are no air pockets.

5) Give the tree a good watering and layer on 2-4 inches of mulch staying at least 4 inches away from the trunk.

6) Tree should be watered enough to keep the ground moist but not soggy. Watering should occur slowly over time, not rapidly all at once.

7) Remove any tags or labels and prune broken or dead branches.

Some of the telltale signs that a tree may have been planted incorrectly are: binding twine still wrapped around the trunk, burlap still wrapped around the top of the root ball, excessive mulch piled around the base of the tree. If you observe these items it may be useful to investigate the planted tree a bit further and see if it’s done correctly.

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