Explained: How To Plant A Tree The Right Way

Trees are the Earth’s lungs. They clear the atmosphere of pollutants and carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. Their roots hold the ground. They prevent soil erosion, take up plenty of rainwater and reduce the chances of flooding. Beyond the positive effects on the environment, trees add beauty to a landscape, are a natural shelter for wildlife and natural shade. Let alone the cooling results your house will have.

A man digging a whole and planting a tree in his garden

Are you done with your vegetable garden? Have you mastered the planting of garlic and chillies? It’s time for trees! If you still hesitate because you’re a beginner gardener, this is all you need. Here’s a complete guide to help you master the skill of planting. Maybe your next project would be to plant your own conker tree with our guide.

When is the best time to plant a tree?

Weather conditions and the type of tree are the main factors to determine the best time of planting. Trees need time to establish roots, and they need cool conditions to achieve this. Hence, we could say that the perfect weather conditions to plant trees are after leaf drop in the autumn and in the early spring

However, some types of trees, like balled and burlapped or container trees, can be planted at any time of year. Or red maples, crape myrtles, hollies, and magnolias can be planted during the summer. There’s a tree for every occasion!

How to prepare the soil for tree planting

One of the most important jobs to do before starting your gardening project is to check the soil in the planting holes. It should have good drainage and be full of nutrients to enhance the good growth of new roots. Adequate drainage of the ground is important for preventing root rotting. If you know that the area is poorly drained, it would be better to plant your trees in raised beds of 20-30 cm height above the ground. Or you can install a drain tile to help the ground’s conditions.

A man having soil in the palm of his hand

What’s more, if your planting area is near new construction, remove any chunks of concrete, roofing shingles, globs of tar, oil spills and sheetrock that cause plant growth issues. Finally, you need to check the soil for any nutrients it lacks and make any adjustments to the pH. Get a soil sample a few weeks before planting to have your ground ready when the time comes. As for the pH, you can adjust it after planting the trees with the appropriate fertiliser.

How to plant a tree the right way

Planting trees is quite easy process. There are, though, some simple steps you should follow to ensure your trees’ proper growing. Even if you’re a beginner gardener, you could follow our tip tops and you’ll have a landfill full of healthy and well-growing trees.

Let’s see what you’ll need to:

  • Trees in container
  • A bucket
  • A watering can
  • A garden spade and a fork
  • A tree stake and tree tie
  • Tree guard or spiral
  • Mulch

Now that you know what tools you need to plant trees in your garden, it’s time to find out the steps you should follow.

Extra tip: Let the trees stand in water as long as you prepare the ground to plant them. The roots should be damp when you insert them into the ground. 

Step 1: Dig planting holes

It’s time to grab your spade and do some digging. You need to dig as many holes as the trees you’re planning to plant. Dig square holes a little wider than the pot your trees are in and as deep as it is. Or 2-3 times wider than the rootball and as deep as it is. Square holes are better as they’ll help the root growth through the corners. If you aren’t sure about the correct planting depth, you can check it with the trunk’s tree flare. The flare is where the trunk expands at the base of the tree, and it should be near the soil level and not under the ground level and covered with soil.

Worker digs soil with shovel in colorfull garden

Step 2: Prepare the tree

Once you’ve dug the planting holes, it’s time to get your trees ready for planting. Get them out of the water you had them stood, and loosen the rootballs if it’s needed. You should loosen them only if they’ve grown in the shape of the container. Otherwise, you might damage your plants. Don’t be afraid! The roots won’t get hurt. The root system won’t be damaged even if you cut a small part. It’s much better to do that before planting and help them follow the right growing route than becoming mixed up underground.

Step 3: Place the rootballs in the holes

Now, you can put your tree in the hole. Place the root in the hole, making sure that the base of the trunk is levelled with the soil surface. You can use a piece of wood or a shovel handle to help you find the right level. Lay the piece of wood across the hole. The top of the rootball should be at or above the wood level.

Step 4: Refill the holes with soil

Backfill the planting holes with the excavating soil to ensure there are no air pockets around the roots. Use your heel to firm the roots and ensure the stem stays upright. To ensure that roots are in perfect contact with the soil, you can add a stiff spray of water as soon as you have ended half backfilling. Once you have finished backfilling, water again.

Extra tip: Add mycorrhizal fungi to the backfill to help roots absorb minerals and water from the ground.

Important: Bare root trees need help to stand. Hence, create a mound of soil in the centre of the hole to help roots hang down. 

Step 5: Add a tree stake and guard

If your landfill is an exposed site, use a stake to protect your small trees from windy weather, prevent root tearing and avoid gaps around the trunk’s base that can fill with water and lead to root rotting. Use a third of the height of the tree stake and place it at a 45° angle. Tie the trunk with the stake using a tree tie. You can also add a tree guard or spiral to protect your young trees from unwanted animal visitors.

Step 6: Water and add mulch

Once you’ve finished planting your new trees, water them very well. Afterwards, add mulch. Leave about 10cm exposed area around the base of the trunk and then add organic matter such as shredded leaves or ground bark or nuggets around the plant. It is essential to newly planted trees as it can retain the needed moisture and keep roots cooler. For more details, we got your back. Check our article about what mulch is and how to use it properly in your garden.

Watering the plants the right way

Things you need to know about watering

Watering is one of the most important factors for the good establishment and survival of your new trees. You should neither leave roots to dry nor overwater them. Newly planted trees should be watered every day for the first week and every other day for the next two weeks.  Afterwards, you should water them once a week.

Normally, trees will tell you if you’re watering them properly. If you notice them turning brown, drying up, and falling off, and the soil appears dry, it means you are watering less than they need. If you think that your trees aren’t behaving properly, you are probably overwatering them. Don’t be confused if the ground surface is dry. A few cm down, it might be wet or the opposite. Thus, before watering your trees, you should do some tests to make sure that your trees do need water. How? Just by using your fingers. Push your finger down 5-10 cm outside the root mass and check the soil. If it feels dry, water it.

Here’s a small chart you can use as a guide to know the amount of water that new trees need.

Tree sizeAmount of water per application
Small shrub15-18 litres
Large shrub26-37 litres
Small trees (<5cm calliper)26-37 litres
Large trees (>5 cm calliper)37-75 litres

You can use a 5-litre container to count the amount of water. If you’re using a hose, check the time the container needs to be filed and multiply it by the number of litres you need for your plants. According to the chart, the result is the amount of time you need to run the hose for every tree.

water from the hose outdoors, man's hand

Planting trees at the right time and in the right way are the key to success. Check the soil before planting and water as much as the trees need. They are by far the most important parts you need to pay attention to. Follow all the above instructions, and we promise you’ll have your tree garden fully grown in a few years.

 

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