View Full Version : Planting Trees and Shrubs.

03-28-2005, 09:46 PM
Ok here is the deal, I have a lady that wants me to plant 4 trees and 10 shrubs in a new house. She wants to buy the trees and shrubs and then have me install them. I have never planted any trees, but I know how to dig a hole and make anything grow, so I should be ok.

I want to give a good quote, but I need to know what everybody does when they plant trees and shrubs. Here is my thinking:

Call the company that comes out and markes the lines.
Dig the hole with an auger....size of hole depending on size of auger.
Throw some fertilizer in, plant the tree.
Mulch around the tree, trying not to suffocate it.
Tie the tree down.

Should I give her a warranty since I am not buying the trees and shrubs. How big of a tree would require a bobcat auger? Or should I forget augers all together and just dig them? If anyone would like to share some numbers, that would be helpful.


03-28-2005, 10:07 PM
You should not give her a warranty since you did not buy the shrub there for you are not making any money on the piece...Numbers...my numbers are good for me I am not sure what your costs are.

As for planting, green side up.

03-28-2005, 10:12 PM
If it's a new place you will probably have to bring in some good top soil and mix with amendment to intigrate into and around the holes.
Dig by hand if it's not too difficult.Don't bid it tell you stick a shovel into it a few places and see how it's gonna be.
I mean a whole couple blades deep worth.I don't use fertilizer when planting if your soils been preped or is already good the Tre's and plants do not need it.
Do not give any guarantee,you are not supplying the plants.
There is a bit more info you should know before planting so look on www.treesaregood.com for more info on planting trees and other stuff.
There is more to planting than just digging a hole.
As far as numbers go that's something you should figure out yourself.
That's the best way to learn estimate pricing.How long do you think it will take you?Double or triple that.How hard is it going to be,access to areas and how far do you have to drive to get there and you still have to stake and water in and clean up any mess.So that should give you an idea on what you want to think about before giving a price. :)

03-28-2005, 10:37 PM
Thanks for the advice guys.....there is alot of good advice. Anyone else have any ideas? I planned on figuring the prices myself, I just through it out there incase someone wanted to give me thier pricing. Thanks guys!

03-28-2005, 10:58 PM
As for planting, green side up.[/QUOTE]

This tends to be important when planting. :rolleyes:

03-28-2005, 11:24 PM
As for planting, green side up.

This tends to be important when planting. :rolleyes:[/QUOTE]

Yeah I learned that rule from laying sod!

03-29-2005, 07:08 AM
Planting a New Tree

1. Dig a shallow, broad planting hole. Make the hole wide, as much as three
times the diameter of the root ball, but only as deep as the root ball. It is
important to make the hole wide because the tree roots on the newly
establishing tree must push through surrounding soil in order to establish.
On most planting sites in new developments, the existing soils have been
compacted and are unsuitable for healthy root growth. Breaking up the soil
in a large area around the tree provides the newly emerging roots room to
expand into loose soil to hasten establishment.

2. Identify the trunk flare. The trunk flare is where the roots spread at the
base of the tree. This point should be partially visible after the tree has
been planted. If the trunk flare is not partially visible, you
may have to remove some soil from the top of the root ball. Find it so you
can determine how deep the hole needs to be for proper planting.

3. Place the tree at the proper height. Before placing the tree in the hole,
check to see that the hole has been dug to the proper depth and no more.
The majority of the roots on the newly planted tree will develop in the top
12 inches of soil. If the tree is planted too deep, new roots will have
difficulty developing due to a lack of oxygen.
It is better to plant the tree a little high, 2-3 inches above the base of the
trunk flare, than to plant it at or below the original growing level. This will
allow for some settling. To avoid damage when setting the tree in the hole,
always lift the tree by the root ball and never by the trunk.

4. Straighten the tree in the hole. Before you begin backfilling have someone
view the tree from several directions to confirm the tree is the tree is
streight.Once you begin backfilling it is difficult to reposition.

5. Fill the hole, gently but firmly. Fill the hole about 1/3 full and gently but
firmly pack the soil around the base of the root ball. Then, if the tree is
balled and burlapped, cut and remove the string and wire from around the
trunk and top 1/3 of the root ball . Be careful not to damage the trunk or
roots in the process.
Fill the remainder of the hole taking care to firmly pack soil to eliminate air
pockets that may cause roots to dry out. To avoid this problem, add the soil
a few inches at a time and settle with water. Continue this process until the
hole is filled and the tree is firmly planted. It is not recommended to apply
fertilizer at the time of planting.

6. Stake the tree, if necessary. If the tree is grown and dug properly at the
nursery, staking for support is not necessary in most home landscape
situations. Studies have shown that trees will establish more quickly and
develop stronger trunk and root systems if they are not staked at the time
of planting. However, protective staking may be required on sites where lawn
mower damage, vandalism or windy conditions are concerns. If staking is
necessary for support, two stakes used in conjunction with a wide flexible
tie material will hold the tree upright, provide flexibility, and minimize
injury to the trunk. Remove support staking and ties after
the first year of growth.

7. Mulch the base of the tree. Mulch is simply organic matter applied to the
area at the base of the tree. It acts as a blanket to hold moisture, moderate
soil temperature extremes, both hot and cold, and reduces competition from
grass and weeds. Some good choices are leaf litter, pine straw, shredded
bark, peat moss, or wood chips. A two to four inch layer is ideal. More than
four inches may cause a problem with oxygen and moisture levels. When
placing mulch, care should be taken so that the actual trunk of the tree is
not covered. This may cause decay of the living bark at the base of the tree.
A mulch-free area, one to two inches wide at the base of the tree, is sufficient
to avoid moist bark conditions and prevent decay.

8. Follow-up care. Keep the soil moist but not soaked; over watering will
cause leaves to turn yellow or fall off. Water trees at least once a week,
barring rain, and more frequently during hot weather. When the soil is dry
below the surface of the mulch, it is time to water. Continue until mid-fall,
tapering off for lower temperatures that require less frequent watering.
Other follow-up care may include minor pruning of branches damaged during
the planting process. Prune sparingly immediately after planting and wait to
begin necessary corrective pruning until after a full season of growth in
the new location.


03-29-2005, 09:58 AM
Coffeecraver and Sheshovel gave excellent advice and the only thing I would add is to check the soil. If you are putting the tree into a heavy clay, dig the hole 12-18" deeper and raise the level with a sand and top-soil mixture to allow drainage away from the roots. I also mix 1/3 top-soil with the native soil before backfilling. Gives the tree something good to bite into. By mixing with the native soil it is already acclimated to the surrounding area. A handful or two of a high phosphorus fertilizer will kick-start the rooting process and help the tree establish itself faster. A capful/gallon of B-1 added every fourth watering will help the plant to stay out of transplant shock. I, myself, use Superthrive, and must say it works a treat.

03-29-2005, 11:54 PM
great info guys! I checked out that website. Lots of good info.

Neal Wolbert
03-30-2005, 02:00 AM
If you're planting in heavy soil or clay and you amend the soil in the planting hole you may encourage it to grow circling or girdling roots If you want the tree/shrub to eventually make the interface into on-site soils, plant it in that soil to begin with. If you take the time to redirect the roots (root washing exposes all the roots and allows for redirection) the chance for problems later on will be minimized. Mud in the roots with a little water and on site soil with your gloved hands to remove air pockets and you probably won't need to stake at all. There is growing support for removing everything that came with the plant from the nursery, i.e. wire baskets, burlap, ties, soil, bark etc. before planting. You can inspect and prune out "J" or girdling roots and identify the first primary roots easily for correct planting depth. It all makes sense when you see it done. Check out Jim Flott's work on Google or the ISA website for more info. Neal

03-30-2005, 02:21 AM
A few onces of "terra sorb" in the bottom and around the root ball sure helps with the water retention.

03-30-2005, 03:07 AM
A few onces of "terra sorb" in the bottom and around the root ball sure helps with the water retention.
yes it does but I cant find it around here, everyone has "soil moist" which I dont like but I end up using

and remember this one simple line that I picked up from a note on the wall of a auto repair shop.... " Labor rate for customer supplied parts $200/hour"

03-30-2005, 06:13 AM
I agree with Neal on this:

If you're planting in heavy soil or clay and you amend the soil in the planting hole you may encourage it to grow circling or girdling roots If you want the tree/shrub to eventually make the interface into on-site soils, plant it in that soil to begin with.

As far as removing the wire basket I respectfully disagree.

The loops on the basket need to be removed to keep them from damageing the roots of the tree.

But total removal may comprimise the rootball and therefore greatly reduce
the survival rate.
The ears ie, (loops) should be trmoved after the tree is in the planting hole.

As far as everything else the jury is still out on that.


Neal Wolbert
03-30-2005, 11:31 PM
Norm, Like I said, check out Jim Flott's info. on google. He's planted thousands of trees in urban areas (street trees included) over the last 15 years using the root washing technique and lost only a few, like 2 or 3. Don't know how anyone can really know what kind of roots are in the burlap or container unless the packaging material, basket included, is removed and the roots washed. I personally think the old "don't disturb the root ball" practice leaves too many unanswered questions and needs to be rethought, no offense intended. Of course any planting technique that goes beyond old standards is for custom work where landscapes are planted to thrive, not just survive. It will take more time and therefore probably won't work for most parking lot projects etc., or the strictly budget minded client. Neal

Classic Lawn
03-30-2005, 11:49 PM

Listen to Coffeecaver theres some good advice there but i'll put in my 2 cents.
It all depends on what the costumer wants to pay and if they want the trees to grow well cause amending the soil can be quite costly and it takes time.

You will want to plant the tree at the hight it was grown at and make the hole wide enough so u can work in it. always put back the same stuff you took out. Next will want to remove the to 8'' to 12'' of burlap and wire basket cause this is were the tree will get most of its oxygen and water this will allow the roots to grow essayer. Never put in fertilizer when u first plant the tree it will promote more leaf growth than root. NEVER USE PEAT it holds 30 times it wight its good once u saturate it once it dries out its very hard to saturate it again. other than that make sure it get plenty of water and maybe suggest to the client that they get a deep root fertilizer in the fall or spring of next year or try vertical mulching with some organic material/fertilizer. hope this helps good luck.

03-31-2005, 03:33 AM
I repectively disagree with the statement about not ammending in clay soil.That info is quite one sided.
In clay soil the more amendment the better.It improves drainage,soil texture and keeps the clay from turning into rock hard cement
cutting off all air to the roots,
and allows for better adjustment for the roots.
If you ammend the hole in a wide area at least 12 to 18 inches deep.And plant high.

I have planted well over 300 trees in clay soil in my area and have only lost one due to client overwatering it.
As far as the root washing ,my opinion is it should only be done with very very rootbound container trees.Washing the soil away from the roots,breaks the chemical reaction and interface bettween soil and root and expose the roots to air and also make it more stressful and reguire more work for the tree to re-establish its" roots to soil" chemical conversation.

Neal Wolbert
03-31-2005, 04:28 AM
In response to your statement "Washing the soil away from the roots,breaks the chemical reaction and interface bettween soil and root and expose the roots to air and also make it more stressful and reguire more work for the tree to re-establish its" roots to soil" chemical conversation." Trees can be grown nicely in pea gravel when water and nutrients are made available also many plants are grown in water... hydoponics...no soil at all. Soil microorganisms re-establish quickly after root washing given the soil has oxygen. Feeder roots start to develop immediately and so do mycorrhizae. Exposure to air for the short time root washing takes will not lead to dehydration. Washing should be done in a tub of water whenever possible, dunking the roots in water keeps them hydrated during the process. The ability to identify the root collar and redirect roots away from the stem far outweighs any dehydration risk involved. As far as interface goes, the plant will be expected to make the interface into the soil on site at some point anyway...why prolong the process? Neal

Big M LawnnSnow
03-31-2005, 05:19 AM
Plant It High, It Won't Die.
Plant It Low, It Won't Grow.

03-31-2005, 11:52 PM
Wow, I was unaware of all the extremely knowledgeable people out there. Geesh, you guys know your tree stuff. I think this weekend I am going to plant a tree in my own yard, so I can get a feel for what processes I like best, and for about how much time it would take me, for pricing. Thanks a million guys. Keep the suggestions coming.

04-03-2005, 03:24 AM
The root enjoy a chemical relationship with the soil that is immediately around them its just as easy for them to establish by leaving the soil that clings to them on than washing it off.
Root dipping is nothing new ,it has been done in England for centurys,but they are dipping right into a muddy mixture.Not washing the roots clean then planting as in bareroot planting.
Why do you think maintaining the ball around ball and burlaped trees is so important?Not just because you might damage the roots but because the soil and the roots should not be seperated intell the roots are strong enough to establish themselves into new suroundings.

Do you mean to tell me this guy removes the ball and washes it away from the roots when he plants B&B?
and he takes the time to rootwash hundreds of plants at jobsites?Or rootwashes large plantings of trees?A waste of time.
Also roots grow up and out,amending clay soil will not encourage them to circle.

04-03-2005, 06:50 AM
Well after a little more research in my Bookshelf,
(I get so used to using this pc, that I had to knock the dust off the books.)
This is what I have come up with.

To insure the best results on sites with heavy clay soils,dig a large hole,then mix equal volumes of soil from the hole,composted matter,and sand.

If compost alone is needed,add 5 percent by weight ( 20-35 percent by volume depending on the material).If sand alone is added,50 percent or more by volume may be required depending on the soil type.If too little sand is addedto a clay soil,the mix could be worse than the original soil.

Test the pH of both the compost and sand. These materials are often alkaline and may not be appropriate for some plants.It may be more practical to bring in quality topsoil rather than prepare amended backfill on the site.

Hydrophilic polymer gels have sometimes been shown to be effective when added to the backfill soil.Growth and survival of bare root plants can be improved by gels,especially if subject to drought and they can help extend irrigation cycles.Effects are likely to be short-lived because the roots will soon grow beyound the polymer amended backfill.

Source: Principals and Practice of Planting Trees and Shrubs
by Gary W. Watson and E.B. Himelick


04-03-2005, 01:05 PM
Thanks once again for all of the info. I am somewhat confused about the burlap bag. You actually burry the burlap bag? Does it decompose. What if the tree being planted does not have a burlap bag?


04-03-2005, 06:06 PM
Well I decided to go ahead and plant a tree, to kind of get an idea as far as time and pricing. I planted a 7 gallon container tree. It took me 45 minutes to do. I decided to dig the hole 2-3 times the size of the container. I put the tree at the proper height. I mixed in about a 3rd top soil with the original dirt, lightly compacting as I filled the hole back up. When I was done, I sprinkled in a little bit of super phosphate on top, and then raked it in. I have yet to put the cypress mulch on, as I plan to kill the rest of the grass in the area as shown in the pictures. I had to dispose of the excess dirt on my yard. The yard I am trying to figure out pricing for is new, so I can spread the excess dirt out thin and leave it on site.

Here is my cost for a 7 gallon container tree.
Top soil - 1 bag $ 1.50
Super phospate $ 1.00
Cypress Mulch - 2 bags $ 5.00
45 minutes of labor $ 30.00 - as I am still new at this.
Total $ 37.50 - for installing a 7 gallon container tree.

Fun of planting a tree - priceless!

Can someone tell me if this sounds way low or way high.

04-03-2005, 06:08 PM
Here is a picture of the snow drift crabapple I planted.

04-03-2005, 06:08 PM
Here is a picture of the dirt...you can kind of tell how wide I made the hole.

04-03-2005, 08:10 PM
The only problem that I see is that it is planted too close to the house.

The tree can reach to be 25' wide or wider at maturity

04-03-2005, 09:05 PM
Well this tree here was for my own yard. I wanted it close to the house. The tag said 20 x 20 was the mature size. The tree is approx. 10' from the house. I think it should be ok.

Neal Wolbert
04-04-2005, 01:53 AM
What did you do with the roots? Neal

Neal Wolbert
04-04-2005, 02:18 AM
sheshovel, It's true that root washing is not for every job like I mentioned in an earlier post. It fits for custom work where there is a mind set to do everything possible to help plants thrive, not just survive. Or where there is a long term comittment to care for the plants like Municiple plantings that are the property of a city, for instance. Commercials (parking lots, apts. etc.) and other low budget site probably wouldn't consider anything except the usual quicky plantings. The benefits of root washing should be obvious. After washing, inspection of the roots will allow for root pruning where needed, i.e. "J" roots and damaged or diseased roots. Redirecting circling roots is not possible without removing soil or planting media. A large percentage of struggling trees we work on have been planted too deep or have girdling roots strangling them. Air spading after a few years reveals a lot of problems related to poor planting. Without inspection, the root collar may be hidden or confused with the graft line. The nursery soil should be considered packaging material since it likely won't be the same kind of soil the plant will be expected to grow in. If you haven't done so, check out Jim Flott's work on Google. It speaks for itself. Neal

04-04-2005, 11:03 AM
I will do that.I totaly agree that at least 85% of the newly planted trees I see are incorrectly planted and or incorrectly staked.

I also agree that they are mostly problems with planting depth and any good gardner or landscaper knows what a girdling root is and does not buy a tree like that,or cuts and removes the root before planting
.I also agree that redirecting circling roots is immpossible without removing some of the nursery soil
but I do it with my fingers cuz any roots that are going to need pruning are going to be right there at the bottom 3"or 4"of the rootball.This I carefully loosen and seperate by hand and spread when setting the tree in the hole.
This is a very interesting thread and I will go look and see what Jim Fllott has to say and get back to you with my thoughts on this.....If you will concide on the clay amending opinion you have.Sheshovel.

04-04-2005, 11:29 AM
I went thru the sites that came up under Jim Fllott and could not find the info on root washing .Please give link again.

Neal Wolbert
04-05-2005, 02:16 AM
sheshovel, On the clay soil issue, and as you know, the biggest issue is drainage and oxygen availablility. If amending the soil will help increase oxygen without creating a bathtub in the process then I think that is fine. So often though, if heavy soil is amended, no matter how big the area might be, water tends to collect in the bottom of the site. I think it would be better to plant in a berm 18" higher than the clay, installing soil at least 3 times the width of the root mass (washed size can be 3 times the pot size or B&B size). This probably is just a dream in most cases, so the the compromise may be to amend to improve drainage, plant as high as possible and mulch. Build drains into your planting site would be a great step if the budget would allow. ISA's site www.treesaregood.com has a Tree Link article but omits the 3rd page I just noticed. That's too bad, don't know what happened there. I placed a call to Jim and will get back to you with info. about other sites or articles on the subject. I have attended two workshop by Jim and his "washing" proponents and have a personal video of a field demo put on by Jim. I'll stay in touch on the issue. Neal

04-05-2005, 02:52 AM
Neal,If I am wrong I anm the 1st to admit it.I am 1/2 wrong.I have been scouring every book on trees ands shrubs that I own and thats 16 books on trees alone,and we are not talking Ortho homeowner paperbacks here.I did finaly find a refrence to
"Root washing"in my "Tree's and Shrubs for Pacific Northwest Gardens" It says to wash the soil away from containerized root bound tree's and shrubs like you were saying.It is the first root washing I have seen ref to other than "mudding roots".I take back some of what I said and will admit that this might be a beneficial method of planting after all.But I will do only on rootbound containerized material for now on small plantings and see if I can tell a difference in how well and how quickly the tree's establish themselves useing both methods compared.
I know all about Tree'saregood.com and am quite a bit past those basics for a long time now. I recommend the site to inexpierienced planters but I'm way past what's on that site. :cool: :)