Correct planting technique begins
with the transportation of the tree. Trees should be handled carefully
as they are transported to their new site. Always protect the roots,
stems and foliage being sure to also shield the plant tops from
winds. Be careful to never pick a tree up by the trunk. Take care
to lift plants from underneath the root ball with the appropriate
Having chosen a tree for a specific site, you should first consider
how the tree is grown in the nursery. Inspect the wrapping around
the root ball. Many synthetic materials are used as well as burlap
treated to retard degradation when wrapping root balls and many
of these materials will not degrade. Therefore, these materials
should be removed from around the root and discarded.
Also, remove all rope, whether jute or nylon, from the trunk as
degradation of these materials is very slow and ropes can girdle
trunks and roots.
When handling container-grown trees, remove the plastic containers
before planting. For plants in fiber pots, break away the top or
remove the pot entirely. Many fiber pots are coated to extend their
shelf life, but this slows degradation below ground and retards
If roots are circling around the root ball exterior, cut through
the roots in a few places. This will help to prevent circle roots
from girdling the trunk. To avoid purchasing trees with circling
roots, select trees grown in containers with vertical ribs or copper
treatments on the interior container wall.
A properly planted tree will be more tolerant of adverse conditions
and require much less management than one planted incorrectly. Proper
planting impacts water quality as it minimizes water, fertilizer
and pesticide use.
The most important considerations when planting trees are the site
where the tree will be planted and the depth of the planting. Don’t
plant too deep. It is far more acceptable to plant in a raised manner
to avoid drowning or suffocating the roots. Planting holes should
be dug 2 to 3 times wider than the root ball and only as deep as
the root ball. Wide, shallow holes encourage horizontal root growth
that trees and shrubs naturally produce.
For the most efficient use of water, an earthen dam should be constructed
4 to 6 inches high around the dripzone area of the plant. Water
will then collect in this basin and move slowly down into the planting
hole, thereby minimizing runoff.
Dig holes as deep as the root ball in well-drained soil and in
poorly-drained soils, dig holes 1 to 2 inches more shallow than
the root ball. When this is the case, cover the exposed root ball
top with mulch.
Be careful to avoid digging holes deeper than root balls and do
not put loose soil beneath roots because the loose soil will compact
over time leaving trees and shrubs planted too deeply. Holes should
be wider near the soil surface as this is where most root growth
occurs. When digging with a machine, such as an auger or backhoe,
score the walls of the hole to prevent glazing.
Holes should be backfilled with existing un-amended soil. Organic
matter should not be incorporated into backfill for individual planting
holes. This should be adhered to in order to prevent problems with
water movement and root growth between the root ball, planting hole
and the surrounding soil. When backfilling, first backfill half
the soil, then water thoroughly to settle out air pockets. Finish
backfilling and then water again. Cover any exposed root ball tops
Slow-release granular fertilizers should only be incorporated into
backfill to provide nitrogen or when a soil test indicates a need
for phosphorous or potassium. Fast-release agronomic fertilizers
should be avoided as they can dehydrate tree roots.