While planting a tree may seem like a relatively easy task, there are some steps you need to make sure you follow to ensure you plant a healthy tree that will thrive for years and years. There is more to planting a tree than sticking it in the ground and hoping for the best. First, make sure you pick a variety of tree that will grow well in your soil conditions. You also want to make sure you know how big the tree will grow to make sure it does not come into contact with your house or anything else in your yard.
Once you have found a tree that will thrive in your area, as well as a location, you need to ensure you plant the tree during the proper season. Ideally, you want to plant the tree in either the fall (before the winter and the tree goes dormant) or early in the spring as the buds open. If you insist on planting the tree in the summer, be aware that it can become stressed due to the heat, and it is much harder to ensure it is properly watered. Make sure to keep the soil moist, which may require you to water multiple times a day. Check to see if you have clay soil – if you do, and the ground is able to stay damp 3 inches below, you may not have to water as much. Once you have the tree, know the location, and know when you will plant it, it is time to dig the hole.
When digging the hole there are a few important things to keep in mind. First, the root collar of the tree should be about 1 inch above ground level. Measure the distance from the root ball to the root collar on the tree itself; you will want to dig the hole to that measurement. You also want to make sure you dig the hole about three times wider than the width of the root ball (make sure to use the actual root ball, without the wrapping and removed from the container). You do not want to dig the hole too deep, however, as the tree roots need oxygen, which is found towards the surface. While you dig the hole, keep the soil you remove on a tarp nearby; this makes backfilling much easier and protects the nearby grass from damage. After the hole is dug, you will want to break up the root ball on the tree. Carefully fan out the roots, as this will encourage expansion into the soil.
Support the tree from underneath and set it in the middle of the hole. You then want to get a wheelbarrow, and mix 2/3 of the soil from your hole with 1/3 compost manure. As you backfill, soak the hole. Once the hole is completely filled and the tree planted, you will want to protect it! Install a plastic guard over the trunk to help avoid damage to the bark, from either weed whackers or rodents. This will also help prevent “frost cracking”, which occurs when one side of the tree grows at a faster rate because it is more exposed to the sun. You will also want to spread a 3 inch thick bed of mulch around the tree to help the soil hold moisture while preventing weeds from growing. Make sure to keep it at least 3 inches from the tree trunk, as bacteria which grows on the mulch can potentially harm the tree. Finally, make sure to water the tree correctly. Frequently check the soil conditions by poking into the ground a popsicle stick. If the soil is damp 3 inches down, you are watering it correctly. There is no perfect process for watering; take a trial and error approach to ensure the health of your tree!