The science of planting a tree for the best possible growth patterns is a difficult one because it isn’t precise: the truth is that every home has a unique set of elements that can change how planting goes if the tree succeeds, and if it will thrive. Of course, there are always some universal steps that you can take to ensure that your tree is one of the ones that grow tall.

Don’t let the prevalence of trees deceive you: planting a tree is difficult, depending on the species. That is why there are so many nurseries and gardening centers around that start them out for you. Even then, the first few months of care are vital to ensure that the tree will actually survive.

Here are some of our best tips:

Dig A Hole That Is Big Enough

Newly planted tree
Credit: montillon.a
  • Go bigger than you need to
  • Make sure you have some help to keep the tree standing
  • Think twice, dig once

When you are planting your tree, you want to be smart: it is going to get so much bigger. You want to plant a tree that will be small (30 feet or less) at least ten feet away from your home’s foundation and any utility lines. If the tree is going to be larger than that, you want to go at least five feet more or further, depending on the type of tree.

Remember that the larger the tree is, the more chance there is that catastrophic damage can occur. Do some research to see how tall the trees that you want will get – you might be surprised.

When it actually comes to the planting, Better Homes And Gardens recommends that “First, prepare a hole two to three times as wide as the root ball of your tree. Handle the root ball carefully to keep it intact while you place it in the hole. Once it’s in, turn it so the best side of the tree is facing the direction you want. With burlapped root balls, cut the twine and remove the burlap (or at least push it to the bottom of the hole).”

Know What To Remove

Young tree
Credit: seyed mostafa zamani
  • Certain materials don’t pose a risk – others do
  • Try to keep the area free of contaminants
  • Make sure the area doesn’t have chemicals

The soil that surrounds the tree’s roots is important to guarantee the success of the plant. You want to ensure that the soil is free of chemicals or contaminants. You might be tempted to “clean” or pare down the area, removing anything you see. While you do want to clear out anything that can zap away nutrients or water, you also don’t want to disrupt your trees’ environment.

Trees thrive in nature: remember that.

If you have a tree that was wrapped up when you go it, you want to remove everything that you can once it is in the hole, according to the Arbor Day Foundation. You especially want to remove any vinyl, treated burlap, or plastic that can easily leech chemicals into the soil. Plain burlap or any natural materials can be cleaned out or they can stay. Metal wires should be removed as well.

Once again, if you want to err on the side of caution, that would be suggested here.

Water, Water, Water

Young evergree
Credit: Vladimer Shioshvili
  • The more water the better
  • Make sure to keep the ground moist but not over saturated
  • Pay attention to weather patterns

As a general rule, unless we are in a drought, you do not have to water your trees very regularly. They are able to get the water they need from the ground. However, when you first plant your tree, you absolutely want to water it at a regular rate. This may seem excessive, but it is important to establishing early growth.

According to the National Wildlife Federation, “The most important thing you can do for your new tree is to water it, often enough to keep the soil moist, about once a week. If it doesn’t rain you will need to use a hose, buckets, or gallon jugs. At each watering, your tree should get about 5 gallons of water for every inch of trunk diameter. Hold up a ruler to the tree trunk to figure out the diameter.

For example, if you have a tree with a half-inch trunk diameter, it should get at least 2 1/2 gallons of water.”

If you have a meter to test the soil, even better!

To Stake Or Not To Stake?

Credit: Jocelyn Kinghorn
  • Depends on the tree
  • If harsh weather is expected, stake the tree
  • Use only high quality materials

One of the biggest debates among tree professionals is whether or not trees should be staked. While most studies have shown that trees that have not been staked will establish more quickly, and they will develop a stronger root system, some people still insist on doing so. Staking is sometimes required, it is important to point out, when you have planted a bare root tree or if you live in a place where it is particularly windy. Sometimes, people will stake if they plant when a storm is coming, but the best thing to do is to avoid doing that altogether.

Another reason to use stakes is to protect against lawnmower damage and vandalism, according to Trees Are Good.

If you have to stake your tree, use only one or two and use a very flexible tie material on the lowermost part of the tree. This will help to keep it upright and will minimize injury to the trunk. Make sure to remove the stakes and ties within a year or planting.

At Portland Tree Service, we can help you with all of your tree care needs – and we will bring our own tools. We can help you throughout all the parts of the tree care life cycle, from planting new trees to taking down older ones. This even includes helping you to safely move trees. For more information about our services, give us a call today at (503) 941-0922.

Header photo courtesy of tengrrl on Flickr!