Fall Tree Planting – Part 2 Planting the Tree

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CHARLOTTE – In Part 1 we discussed buying trees for fall planting. In Part 2, we discuss planting those trees.

  1. Find the right planting site. Pay attention to the tree’s needs for sunlight and soil drainage.
  2. Check the soil. If it is ready for digging, it will be just moist enough to crumble. If the soil is not ready, wait for it to dry or water it.
  3. Mark out the proper hole. New roots establish more quickly in a hole that is roughly twice the diameter of the root ball and no deeper than necessary to let the tree stand at the same level as the surrounding soil. The base of the tree shouldn’t be lower than the surrounding soil level due to water pooling and causing rot.
  4. If you’re planting in an established bed that already contains a layer of mulch, scrape away the mulch from the planting site before digging the hole.
  5. Lay down a tarp to place the soil on. Once you start digging the hole, you need a place to put the dirt.
  6. Dig the hole. Taper the hole from ground level at the edges to the full depth at the center.
  7. Prepare the roots. If the tree is bare-root, cut back any roots that are damaged or blackened by disease.  Shovel some soil into the hole to create a mound on which to spread the roots. If the tree is container-grown, slide it out of the pot and untangle and splay out roots that outgrew the pot, shortening any that are too long. Loosen the large roots and tease out smaller ones. If the tree is balled and burlapped, slide it right into the hole being careful not to break the ball. Cut the string binding the burlap and peel the wrap as close to the base as possible. Natural burlap will decompose, so some scraps can be left in the hole.
  8. Now fill in around the tree working the soil up against and in among the roots but not too tightly. When the hole is about halfway filled add water and wait for the water to soak in, then continue filling.
  9. Next spread a 3-inch layer of mulch over the bare ground to within a few inches of the trunk. This will insulate the roots and prevent freezing when winter arrives. Note that mulch can cause rot if not applied correctly. To avoid this, pull the mulch up to but not right against the trunk.
  10. Trees that are 10 feet tall or higher, especially if located at windy sites, should be staked for a year until their roots grab firmly to the soil.
  11. Once the tree is planted, slowly soak the ground beneath the tree. Plan on 1 gallon per week per square foot spread of the roots. Continue to water until the end of the fall planting season and longer for larger trees.
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