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What to Know When Planting a Tree


Do you have an area on your property that would be perfect for a young tree? I’ve always had a weakness for beautiful shade trees like the brilliant red maple and American elm. Perhaps you’ve considered planting a tree in your yard but pushed the idea aside, thinking it would be too complicated. Well, you’ll be glad to know that planting a tree is easier than you think! Here are some things you should know before planting a tree on your property.

What Type of Tree Should I Get?

First, you have to decide on the right tree for your yard. Naturally, you want to choose a tree that will flourish in your area of the country. For instance, if you live in a northern state and want to plant a conifer in your yard, a white pine would fare well in a colder climate. Alternatively, a loblolly pine would be a better choice if you live in a southern climate. The type of soil you have as well as the amount of rainfall you receive should factor into the type of tree you select.

Choosing a Spot and Preparing to Plant

Take some time to choose a great spot in your yard for your new tree. One question to consider is whether the tree will have enough room to grow. For instance, you wouldn’t want to plant a shade tree beneath power lines knowing that its branches will probably interfere with the lines one day. The best time to plant a tree is in the fall. The ground is still warm then, which gives your tree time to start establishing its roots before winter arrives.

Planting the Tree

After choosing a location for your tree, take a shovel and dig a hole that will hold the root ball while leaving its root flare exposed. The hole should be two to three times the width of the root ball. Next, using a garden fork, loosen the dirt in the hole so it’s easier for the tree’s roots to expand. After placing the root ball in the hole, fill it halfway up with dirt. Pour water around the trunk of the tree to moisten the soil and give the roots a long drink. Shovel the rest of the dirt around the tree trunk up to the soil line. Use your hands to dig a two-inch ‘moat’ around the trunk so rainwater has no trouble making its way down to the tree’s roots. Put a two- or three-inch thick layer of bark mulch around your tree’s trunk to give it some protection in the wintertime. Make sure that the mulch is not packed up against the trunk.

Staking a Tree

It’s best to allow your young tree trunk to develop without the support of stakes, but there are some cases when stakes are necessary. For instance, if your tree has bare roots or is in an area with no protection from harsh winds, then it can be staked. Wooden or metal stakes are both good choices. Place a stake on either side of a young tree. Make sure you avoid the root ball when you push each stake into the ground. Gently push the trunk of your tree to see where it starts to bend. This is the point where you should secure it to a stake using a pair of old pantyhose or a long strip of cloth. Don’t use wire to stake your tree because it can cut into the trunk, damaging the wood.

Tips on Caring for Your Tree

For the first two years, give water to your tree on a regular basis so its roots continue to establish themselves. The soil should be moist to the touch, especially during times of drought. One suggestion is to allow a garden hose to run for 30 seconds at the base of your tree. Depending on what type of tree you have, you may need to prune it to keep it in healthy condition.

Good luck with your new tree, and thanks for reading! – Alan

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