Planting "How-to" Instructions

Note - These are general planting instructions, applicable to most plants and trees

Tree and Shrub Planting Instructions

Planting a tree or any other plant is really very simple. Basically, you keep the roots moist, dig a hole, stick it in, and water it. A properly planted tree or shrub will

PLANTING PROCEDURES: Correct planting technique begins with proper handling and care. Be careful when unwrapping the packaged plant materials, since stems and roots are fragile. Once the trees or plants are unpacked, soak the roots in a bucket of water for ar a few minutes. Since the roots breathe, don't let them sit too long.

Always protect the roots, stems, and foliage during transplanting. Do not let the roots freeze or dry out, and keep the roots moist and covered. It is also helpful to keep them protected from direct sunlight and wind.

If there is a delay in planting more than a few days, one should "heel in" the plants using soil or mulch materials to cover the roots. This is done by burying the roots in a pile of sawdust or loose soil. This works well to temporarily hold the trees until you are able to plant them. Have your heeled-in area away from wind and direct sunlight, and keep the plants moist, but not soaked. If the plants are dormant, they will sit there with no problem, but non-dormant plants will need more care.

THE PLANTING HOLE: A good soil mix allows enough air to move freely in and out, while also holding enough water. There is a balance between soil, water and air, that allows for fast root growth. By adding almost any type of organic matter: grass clippings, manure, compost, will help improve a poor soil.

The most important consideration in planting trees and shrubs is the planting depth. Dig planting holes 2 to 3 times wider than the root ball, and the same depth. Hold the tree in the center of the hole (with the roots spread out or loosened) using one hand, and use the other hand to scoop soil in and around the roots. After the roots are mostly covered, the tree will stand up by itself. Add more soil, and gently pat the soil to pack it in. Water the tree well. The water will cause the soil to fill in any holes, and you may need to add a little more soil to help fill it in. If the tree or plant is tall, you may want to put in a stake to hold it up. Place the stake away from the roots, or even outside the hole and use twine to loosely tie the plant to the stake.

Make a basin around each tree with extra soil materials to collect and hold water. This will be very helpful during the summer months. Also after planting, add a 3 to 12 inch layer of organic mulch around the base of the plant. You can use rocks if they are plentiful around, or that is part of the design, but organic materials (bark, wood chips, pine needles, leaves, compost, lawn clippings, etc.) are better for several reasons. As the organic materials decompose, they add nutrients to the trees root system, as well as adds to the nutrient holding capacity of the soil. The material also helps to add soil structure, which aides in water and air circulation. The more obvious benefits of course are that the mulch helps to conserve the soil moisture, and keeps weeds under control. And then also, the mulch helps to keep the soil temperatures cooler which reduces the stress on the tree roots.

LARGE PLANTING PROJECTS: For planting thousands of trees, such as for a Christmas tree farm or reforestation project, it becomes unfeasible to spend as much time and energy planting each tree. If planting a tree carefully, using the above procedure, taking ten minutes, then planting five hundred trees per acre would take weeks! In reforesting project planting rates of 50 to 100 per hour are very common. How? The principles are the same, but shortcuts are taken.

The first thing to do, is decide how many trees you want per acre, what varieties, how far apart you want them, then walk the ground and see what the planting area looks like. If possible, tilling the ground with a tractor makes excellent planting "spots", and the tree-planting process will go very fast. It is also important that the soil is moist. Since you would be planting hundreds of trees per acre, you can not water each one, so there has to be enough moisture in the ground when they get planted to keep the roots moist.

Planting one tree or ten thousand, it is important to keep the roots moist. Trees and most plants need to have the roots protected from drying out, but not sitting in standing water either. While planting large numbers, carry the trees a bundle or group at a time, keeping the roots protected in a bucket with wet sawdust or other moist material, moist cloth bag, or other carrying devices. Dipping a bundle or group of trees in water, then placing them in the carrying container, will work well to keep the roots moist.

Dig a hole with a shovel or other tool. Instead of making a large hole and mixing organic materials into the soil, just take the shovel and open a "slit" wide enough and deep enough to put the tree in so the roots are straight. Then make another slit a few inches away from the first, and push the soil to close up the first slit. Do this gently as to not damage the tree or roots. Lastly, gently tamp the second slit and area around the tree with your foot to lightly pack the soil around the tree. This closes up the soil around the tree, removing the air pockets. It takes practice, but the process can go very quickly as you develop a "planting rhythm".

While carrying bundles of trees and planting them, just keep the roots protected and moist, carefully get the roots straight in the planting slit or hole, and then gently close up the hole and go onto the next tree. Since you're planting hundreds of trees per acre, the next tree is planted only a few steps away. It's hard work, but very rewarding.

CARE: Once your trees or plants in the ground, the only thing you really need to do is keep them watered. Water after they get planted, and periodically check them. As the spring turns into summer, having a basin around the tree will make watering more effective. As the trees grow, you will want to add fertilizer to help them grow faster and healthier. Also, keeping a watch for insects or animal damage is important too.

Should you have further questions, we are here to assist you! Just send us a note.

Moving Larger Trees

The above tree planting guide is good and worthwhile, but really geared more for the little trees. What about moving that ten foot maple across the yard or from the old house to a new one? How best is that done, and can it be done during the middle of summer?

The answer is Yes! You can move larger trees across town or across the yard, but it does take some effort and a bit of time. The result is a large tree where you want it, so the time factor is a cheap price to pay.

How best to do this -- First, the root system - you need to get as much of it as possible. The side roots are important since they are the fine "feeder roots" that supply the water to the trunk and leaves. Then also, the tree needs to be moist, and moist ground is much easier to dig, and you end up doing a better job on the roots. Also, dig your hole first. Make it 2x2 ft. and 2 deep. Fill it with water. This will get the ground ready. You can have a bag of mix or compost nearby for adding later.

Ok, to start -- Saturate the ground with water. Each use the hose or take several gallons or more of water (in jugs, etc.) and give the tree/ground a good drink. Doing so, reduces the stress and makes the ground easy to dig. Next, carefully trim off the leaves. Cut the leaves off along the leaf stems. What this does is drastically reduces the transplant shock, and once replanted, new leaves will resprout from the leaf buds at the base of the leaf stems. Now, wait a couple days. Give the tree time to adjust to the trimming and soak up as much water as possible. Be prepared to dig down about two feet. Start at least a foot away from the trunk, loosen and remove the soil, and also observe the rooting pattern. If there are many small feeder roots, move back, you need as many of those as possible. Once you cavern your way to the tap root, you should start to feel the tree is ready to pull out. Carefully do so.

Have a plastic sheet and some wet burlap, cloth, or newspaper, and add wet material to the roots, then carefully wrap the roots with the plastic to prevent drying. Rush it home and get it planted. The hole may need to be enlarged depending on the root spread, but that's easy enough, it should be easy to work. Place the tree in, make sure the roots are straight, then add soil on top to hold it, then go ahead and pile the rest in. Add compost or other mix at this time. Do not pack it down. After you're 2/3 done, fill the hole with water. Jiggle the tree a bit, this helps to move the soil in and around the roots filling in the air pockets. Then add more soil as needed, water again, and you're done. You may need a stake or two to hold it up for a while, and that should be at least a foot away from the trunk. Twine works best when tying the tree.

Because you've trimmed the leaves off and given the tree a good drink a couple days before, it should rebound nicely. If the sun and heat are intense, you can place a sheet of cardboard on a stake for shading. Blocking the mid-day sun for a couple weeks will help reduce the stress on the tree while its recovering from the shipment or transplanting. Then you can slowly add fertilizer, sparingly at first. After it adjusts, and certainly by the end of winter, it will be safe to add regular amounts.

Water in the early morning or evening after the heat of the day. Timing can be important especially if the weather is hot and dry. As the weather heats up in late spring through the summer months, the water demand will be greater, so plan on watering more often. Automatic sprinklers and drip systems should be adjusted to increase the volume of water delivered.

Keep the basics of planting in mind, and you should have very good success. Good luck!

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