Planting trees is an easy and effective way to beautify
your property, provide shade in summer and wind
protection in winter and enhance privacy all while
increasing real estate values at the same time. Since a
tree is such a visible part of the landscape care must
be taken to ensure proper growth conditions are
maintained. A tree is far more difficult - and
expensive - to replace, once mature in the landscape,
than most shrubs. However, with some advance planning,
trees too can be easily maintained.
While planting each of these different types of trees
differs in the details, all trees eventually end up in a
hole. But not any old hole will do.
The most common mistake when planting a tree is a
digging hole, which is both too deep and too narrow.
Too deep and the roots don’t have access to sufficient
oxygen to ensure proper growth. Too narrow and the root
structure can’t expand sufficiently to nourish and
properly anchor the tree.
As a general rule, trees should be transplanted no
deeper than the soil in which they were originally grown.
The width of the hole should be at least 3 times the
diameter of the root ball or container or the spread of
the roots in the case of bare root trees. This will
provide the tree with enough worked earth for its root
structure to establish itself.
When digging in poorly drained clay soil, it is
important to avoid ‘glazing’. Glazing occurs when the
sides and bottom of a hole become smoothed forming a
barrier, through which water has difficulty passing. To
break up the glaze, use a fork to work the bottom and
drag the points along the sides of the completed hole.
Also, raising the centre bottom of the hole slightly
higher than the surrounding area. This allows water to
disperse, reducing the possibility of water pooling in
the planting zone.
PLANTING BALLED AND BURLAPPED TREES.
Balled and burlapped (B & B) trees, although best
planted as soon as possible, can be stored for some time
after purchase as long as the ball is kept moist and the
tree stored in a shady area. B & B trees should always
be lifted by the ball, never by the trunk. The burlap
surrounding the ball of earth and roots should either be
cut away completely (mandatory, in the case of synthetic
or plastic burlap) or at least pulled back from the top
third of the ball (in the case of natural burlap). Any
string or twine should also be removed. Backfill soil
(combinations of peat moss, composted manure, topsoil,
etc.) is then placed in the hole surrounding the tree
just to the height of the ball or slightly lower to
allow for some settling. Be careful not to compress the
back fill soil as this may prevent water from reaching
the roots and the roots from expanding beyond the ball.
PLANTING CONTAINER TREES.
Container trees (though subject to greater heat and
drying conditions than B and B) can also be stored for a
brief period of time after purchase as long as the soil
in the container is kept moist and the tree stored in a
shady spot. The procedure for planting container trees
is similar to that for B & B trees. In the case of
metal or plastic containers, remove the container
completely. In the case of fibre containers, tear the
Once carefully removed from the container, check the
roots. If they are tightly compressed or ‘potbound’,
use your fingers or a blunt instrument (to minimize root
tearing) to carefully tease the fine roots away from the
tight mass and then spread the roots prior to planting.
In the case of extremely woody compacted roots, it may
be necessary to use a spade to open up the bottom half
of the root system. The root system is then pulled
apart or ‘butterflied’ prior to planting. Loosening the
root structure in this way is extremely important in the
case of container plants. Failure to do so may result
in the roots ‘girdling’ and killing the tree. At the
very least, the roots will have difficulty expanding
beyond the dimensions of the original container. To
further assist this, lightly break up even the soil
outside the planting zone. This allows roots that
quickly move out of the planting zone to be more
resilient as they anchor into existing surrounding soil
Once the tree is seated in the hole, the original soil
is then back-filled into the hole to the soil level of
the container. Again, remember not to overly compress
the back-filled soil especially by tramping it with your
feet. Compress gently using your hands instead.
PLANTING BARE-ROOTED TREES.
Planting bare-rooted trees is a little different as
there is no soil surrounding the roots. Most
importantly, the time between purchase and planting is a
more critical issue. Plant as soon as possible. When
purchasing bare-rooted trees, inspect the roots to
ensure that they are moist and have numerous lengths of
fine root hairs (healthy). Care should be taken to
ensure that the roots are kept moist in the period
between purchase and planting. Prune broken or damaged
roots but save as much of the root structure as you can.
To plant, first build a cone of earth in the centre of
the hole around which to splay the roots. Make sure
that when properly seated on this cone the tree is
planted so that the ‘trunk flare’ is clearly visible and
the ‘crown’, where the roots and top meet, is about two
inches above the soil level. This is to allow for
STAKING AND GUY-WIRING
Young trees should be able to support their own weight,
but when they are transplanted, they often need time to
reestablish themselves. Also, many nurseries plant
their trees very close together to maximize use of space
and stake them to promote height growth at the expense
of trunk strength. When shopping for trees, look for
trees with branches all along the trunk - not just at
Once a tree is planted, it will concentrate its energy
on standing upright. If it is unable to do so, try
thinning out the upper branches to reduce wind
resistance. If that is not enough and you find you have
to stake a tree, remember the following"
1. Only stake the tree long enough for it to be able
stand on its own.
2. Stakes should not be too tight - there should be
room for the tree to sway in the wind.
3. Stakes should not be too loose - the tree should not
rub against the stakes.
4. Stakes should be buried at least 1.5 feet underground
to provide ample support.