Planting Trees

Planting a tree is fun and easy!  Here’s how to do it —

Location.  Location.  Location.  The first step to planting a tree should actually come before you even have a tree in hand! Go outside and stand where you want to plant your tree.

Now, look up and side to side. Do you have overhead power lines within 20 feet of the planting site? If you have overhead lines, you will need to plant a small stature tree, so that it will not grow up into the lines and create a hazard.

Now, look down. Are you standing on top of a buried utility line, like a gas, water, electric or cable line? Call 811 before you dig to mark your lines.  After the utility crew has marked the location of lines on the ground, choose a place to plant your tree at least 5 feet away from underground lines.

Best Months to Plant a Tree.  You should plant your tree in cool weather during the fall or winter planting months.   The cool temperatures of October through early March —  will allow the roots to work their way down into the soil and get established before the hot days to come in spring and summer.

Selecting Your Tree.  Once you have found exactly the right spot for your new tree,  select the one you want from TreeFolks or a local nursery that provides trees that are native or well adapted to Central Texas.

Look for a tree without any visible diseases, damaged bark, broken branches, or roots circling around the trunk.

Buy a sapling or the smallest tree you can bear to plant.  Saplings and young trees will establish themselves faster than large trees.  Small trees are more resilient and are less likely to have irreversible structural defects in their roots and branches.

It may seem like planting a big tree will give you a head start, but trees are a long term investment, and it pays to start small. Your little 5-gallon tree will be as big or bigger than the 36” boxed tree in a few short years, and you will have saved many hundreds of dollars.

Root Ball.  After bringing your sapling or container tree home, set it on the ground next to where you want to plant it. Grab the trunk at the base and pick the whole thing up, pot and all. Gently tap the top edge of the pot all the way around, causing the pot to fall away from the tree.

Next, set your newly liberated tree back down on the ground. With your fingers, gently pull the potting soil away from the base of the trunk, digging down until you find the first lateral root. This point, where the trunk becomes roots, is called the root flare, and it tells us how deep to dig. On a 5-gallon tree, it may be as much as 6 inches deep, or it may be right at the soil surface, depending on how it was grown in the nursery. Now lean the whole tree over on its side and make an ‘X’ shaped cut with a very sharp knife or pruning shears across the bottom of the root ball, and three or four vertical slices along the sides of the root ball, all about 1” deep. This will eliminate any circling roots, which will kill your tree in the long run.

Dig a Wide Hole.  Now, dig a hole twice the width of the pot, and slightly shallower than the depth of the root ball after finding the root flare and making your cuts.

Plant Your Tree. Place the tree in the middle of the hole, and align it more or less straight up and down. Refill the hole around your tree half way with the original soil – now broken up from your digging, and water the hole until the hole is full of water. Let the water drain out. Then, fill the hole with the rest of the original soil. With any excess dirt, make a shallow berm or rise around the perimeter — the outside of the planting hole to hold and direct water toward the buried root ball.

Mulch! Spread a 3” layer of mulch across the surface of the planting hole, but keep it 3” away from the trunk of the tree. Mulch protects the roots and soil.  It prevents evaporation and holds water in the ground.  Mulch keeps the soil temperature cool.

Water.  Water the tree until you see standing water, then turn off the water and walk away. Don’t stake, prune, move, fiddle with or do anything but sing to your tree for at least one week unless it falls over completely or dies outright. For at least the first couple if years, water your tree every 7-10 days unless we receive at least 1-inch of rainfall.

Enjoy your tree!

Talk to it. 😉

And water it.

Mulching Trees