How to Buy and Plant Trees (cont)
By: Lance Walheim
How to Plant Bare-root Trees: Set bare-root trees atop a small mound of soil in the center of the planting hole, and spread the roots down and away without unduly bending them. Identify original planting depth by finding color change from dark to light as you move down the trunk towards the roots. If the tree is grafted, position the inside of the curve of the graft union away from the afternoon sun.
How to Plant B&B Trees: Handle the root-ball carefully so it doesn't break or crack. Lift the soil ball and position it in the center hole. Gently tamp to remove air pockets as you fill. Once stabilized with backfill, remove burlap. Continue backfilling and watering to settle the soil. Don't cover the top of the root-ball with backfill because it could prevent water from entering.
How to Plant Container Trees: Lift the plant out of container prior to setting the root-ball in the hole. Eliminate circling roots by laying the root-ball on its side and cutting through the roots with shears. Don't cover the top of the root-ball with backfill because it could prevent water from entering.
Water After Planting
Create a watering basin at least 4 to 6 inches high just outside the root-ball. Fill it with water, let it drain, and repeat. Recheck the planting depth. If the tree has settled below the surrounding soil level, it should be raised. For bare-root trees, gently pull up on the lower trunk. For container or balled & burlapped trees, carefully push a shovel under the root-ball and pry it upward while lifting up on the lower trunk. In each case, moist soil will settle under the roots and raise the planting depth.
Stake, if Necessary, and Mulch
A tree with a strong trunk stands on its own without staking. However, if the tree was staked in the nursery or if you are planting in a windy location, proper staking will support the tree during its first years in the ground. Drive in two stakes, one on each side of the tree and just outside the root-ball. Position the stakes so that a line drawn between them is perpendicular to the strongest prevailing wind when the tree is in leaf. Tie the tree to the stakes with wide flexible ties. Determine how high to attach the ties by running your hand up the trunk from the base. The minimum height at which the top of the tree remains upright is where to secure the ties. Use wide ties to reduce damage to the trunk, and don't tie the tree too tight. A tree that can sway somewhat in the wind will develop a stronger trunk.
Apply 3 to 4 inches of organic mulch around the base of the tree to conserve moisture and reduce weeds. Keep it at least 6 inches away from the trunk.