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New Tree Planting

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by Coffeecraver, Oct 18, 2004.

  1. Coffeecraver

    Coffeecraver LawnSite Senior Member
    from VA.
    Messages: 793

    The ideal time to plant trees and shrubs is during the dormant season ? in the
    fall after leafdrop or early spring before bud-break. Weather conditions
    are cool and allow plants to establish roots in the new location before spring
    rains and summer heat stimulate new top growth. However, trees properly
    cared for in the nursery or garden center, and given the appropriate care
    during transport to prevent damage can be planted throughout the growing

    In either situation, proper handling during planting is essential to
    ensure a healthy future for new trees and shrubs. Before you begin planting
    your tree, be sure you have had all underground utilities located prior to

    If the tree you are planting is balled and burlapped, or bare rooted, it is
    important to understand that the tree's root system has been reduced by
    90-95% of its original size during transplanting. As a result of the trauma
    caused by the digging process, trees will commonly exhibit what is known
    as transplant shock. Transplant shock is indicated by slow growth and
    reduced vigor following transplanting.

    Proper site preparation before and during planting coupled with good follow-up care will reduce the amount of time the plant experiences transplant shock and will allow the tree to quickly establish in its new location. Carefully follow eight simple steps and you can significantly reduce the stress placed on the plant at the time of planting.

    "It's better to put a $100 tree in a $200 hole than to put a $200 tree in
    a $100 hole."

    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 straight. 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
    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.
  2. alpine692003

    alpine692003 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,502

    good post. :drinkup:
  3. jajwrigh

    jajwrigh LawnSite Bronze Member
    Male, from Martinsville, IN
    Messages: 1,405

    This is a very good thread! I am sure I will refer to it in the spring once or twice! :blob3:
  4. jimmyq

    jimmyq LawnSite Member
    Messages: 39

    If you need reference for decent tree information, try here:


    This is the site that the beginning post to this thread was copied and pasted from. It is provided by the International Society of Arboriculture as an information source to the general public (ie. anyone that is interested).
  5. Coffeecraver

    Coffeecraver LawnSite Senior Member
    from VA.
    Messages: 793

    That is correct.


    This is the site, The information should be posted from time to time
    to keep it fresh. Some people would never read the information if it was just a link.

  6. blafleur

    blafleur LawnSite Member
    Messages: 229

    I agree with everything in the post except one thing, kind of. Though I know that technically, container plants can be installed anytime, this is somewhat regional as to effectiveness. Here in north Tx., the summers can get so hot and dry, it really lowers the survival rate of even container grown trees if planted in the middle of summer. I know it is done a lot, mostly on commercial because of deadlines, but I wont plant anything in summer here and guarantee it. Even those that survive are often not very vigorous, even those planted perfectly.

    Another thing I always do is not only plant the tree above ground level, but at least 2-3 inches above it. I have seen some container trees, I guess from the root ball not being completely root supported(and maybe the potting mix breaking down some, actually sink a couple of inches. And this is in holes that were not backfilled under the root ball, so I dont know what else it could be other than the root ball settling.

    Any other insight on this?

  7. Coffeecraver

    Coffeecraver LawnSite Senior Member
    from VA.
    Messages: 793

    When planting a container tree or a B&B you should always look for the flare
    The flare in most cases is beneath the surface of the top part and needs to be uncovered. Planting high encourgages the tree to root up higher causing a higher potential for the root to girdle,also build up too much moisture around
    the trunk.

    The most common cause for the plant to sink is digging the hole too deep and having loose dirt at the bottom of the planting hole.
  8. blafleur

    blafleur LawnSite Member
    Messages: 229

    How does planting the root ball higher than the surrounding grade cause moisture build up, or girdling? I am always open to learn something new, but I dont understand that one.

  9. Coffeecraver

    Coffeecraver LawnSite Senior Member
    from VA.
    Messages: 793

    When you plant the tree high the roots will reach the outer part of the ball and have no where to go so they go around and can cause girdling.

    If you are planting the tree high and do not find the flare,then the flare is then covered in dirt and likely mulch as well. Thererfore holding the soil and mulch tight to the trunk at a point that the soil or mulch should not touch the truink.Therefore holding too much moisture against the trunk.

  10. CrewCutEnterprises

    CrewCutEnterprises LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 898

    Hey. Im have a job in the next month where im planting 53 abra vita's (emerald Green) They are B & B. Now when i plant burlap trees do i remove it completly and cut the roots like planting from a bucket or do i leave the burlap on.

    Prolly a dumb question.

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