The correct way to plant a tree takes a little longer than digging a hole, plugging the tree into the ground, and putting a hose next to it. However, following a few simple tips is all you really need to do to give your new tree a good start in its new home.

Plant in spring

Many seasoned green thumbs will tell you that planting in the fall is your best bet. Conventional wisdom is that planting in the fall gives plants plenty of time to adjust and adapt to the summer heat.

Contrary to popular belief, planting in the spring gives the tree ample time to prepare for the summer heat. Planting in the spring brings bonuses most people don’t think about. Spring is an important time for local nurseries. The nursery usually comes with great products in the spring.

Planting in the fall is best. Your local daycare center may not be able to provide high-quality services during the fall season.

You have to dig deep

Too many people approach how to plant trees in the ground with only their best guesses about the best way to plant trees in the ground. They dig a hole they think is deep enough, stick a tree in, fill the hole with soil, and turn on the sprinklers.

There are a few things to consider:

✓ Identify stem flares where the stem extends from the base of the tree. It is usually 2″- 4″ below the top of the root ball.

✓ Start by tilling a piece of soil about 5 times wider than the diameter of the root ball.

✓ Dig a shallow but wide hole. A wider hole breaks up the surrounding soil and allows new roots to move freely.

✓ The hole should be 2-3 times the diameter of the tree root ball. The hole should be deep enough so that the trunk flare is at least 1 inch off the ground.

✓ Remove any wire or plastic around the tree’s roots.

✓ Position the tree perpendicular to the hole.

✓ Make sure the tree is pointing in the right direction. Some nurseries or retail stores dot or mark trees. A point should usually point in a specific direction.

✓ Before starting to refill the hole, be careful not to cover it with mulch or soil.

✓ Finally, create a water bowl with mulch around the root ball of the tree. This will help retain water when it rains or when watering with a hose.

✓ The soil should be moist to the touch. Water as needed.

How to water properly

Any arborist or professional grower will tell you that it’s all too common to dig a dead tree out of a hole with a large puddle of water in the bottom.

Water is essential for life, and trees need it to grow.

It may be hard to believe, but excess water is the number one cause of death for immature trees.

Watering is a tricky proposition. There are no black and white answers. This will depend on the tree’s age, species, season, soil type, and many other factors.

If you’re not sure if you’re drowning or drinking too much water, don’t feel bad. Many of us are in the same boat.

Growing a tree for a long time can seem almost impossible. After all, people need water to survive and it’s almost unheard of that we consume too much of it.

Most overwater sources don’t take the time to realize that tree roots also need oxygen. The soil around the roots is normally rich in the oxygen that the roots need. If the hole is always full of water, the roots cannot breathe.

Soil type plays an important role in the amount of water a tree needs. Most metropolitan areas have clay soils. Clay soils tend to trap water better than rocky or sandy soils. Clay soil retains water, so the potential for over-watering is obvious.

When is it time to water?

Young trees generally require more water than mature trees. A young tree spends a lot of energy developing its root system. This increases the amount of water required. A rule of thumb is to water twice a week for the first few years.

Watering frequency decreases as the tree matures and the root system grows. Mature roots extend deep underground. Simply watering the surface will not grow deep roots.

At this time, the name of the game is to pour water deep into the ground so that the water reaches the growing roots. Many arborists say they prefer a drip system for watering over the traditional method of using a hose and sprinkler. A drip system allows water to flow slowly deep underground where it is most effective.

The only way to know when to water is to check the soil moisture level. Fortunately, you don’t need fancy tools to do this. You just need to be able to feel the dirt.

If you push the soil around your body with your finger, you can feel the moisture. To do this without getting your hands dirty, use a screwdriver or long fork to dig. Remember that the ground should be moist, but not overly wet or muddy.

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