Dig in to plant a tree
Spring and fall are great times of year to plant trees and other landscape plants. Before digging in, take time to select the right tree for the right location, to ensure your planting is successful.
Ten steps for planting a tree:
1. Transport with care: Transport your tree from the nursery by covering the canopy to avoid windburn. To avoid damaging fragile roots, keep the root ball moist if you’re not planting immediately. Do not bounce or drop the root ball.
2. Dig In: Dig your hole twice as wide as the root ball and just slightly shallower than the height of the root ball. Scuff and roughen the sides of the planting hole. Compact the bottom of the hole so the tree won’t settle lower.
3. Remove the container: Remove any plastic container from the tree before placing it in the hole, and separate and loosen circling and dense roots. For balled and burlapped trees, cut and remove the top of the burlap and twine away from the trunk.
4. Select the right planting height: Find the trunk or root flare where the roots meet the trunk, generally where the trunk becomes wider before going into the soil. You may need to scrape the soil back to find the root flare if it is buried inside the root ball. Set the top of the root flare to be approximately 1/2 to 1 inch above the surrounding grade. If you must add soil to the planting hole, be sure to compact it before installing the tree.
5. “Face” the tree: Orient the preferred side of the tree to a prominent viewpoint such as a patio or window of the house. When moving the tree, lift it from the container or root ball and not from the trunk or branches.
6. Plumb the tree: Once the tree is in the hole ensure that it is standing upright. Adjust the root ball until the tree is plumb and then pack soil under and around the root ball to secure it.
7. Improve the soil: Improve the native clay soil in our area with soil amendments like compost or Sweet Peet mulch. Mix one part amendment to three parts native soil.
8. Backfill: Pack in the soil as you backfill around the tree by compressing the soil after every few shovels of soil. This will remove air pockets which will help to stabilize the plant.
9. Water: Water only after backfilling is completed and the soil is compacted. Create a berm around the base of the tree larger than the root ball so water is concentrated around the tree and does not run off. Water more heavily for the first watering, then continue monitoring the tree for water, adding generally 1 gallon of water per caliper inch plus one gallon. For example, a 2-caliper inch tree will need three gallons of water once twice a week ,depending on the season and soil conditions.
10. Mulch: Cover the planting area with 1.5 to 2 inches of bark mulch, but keep it away from the trunk of the tree. Mulch moderates the soil temperature, helps to maintain moisture, reduces weed growth and prevents a hard crust from occurring on the soil which prevents water from getting into the soil.
Before you plant a tree, know where your utilities are located. Call Ohio Utility Protection Service (OUPS) at 811 or 800-362-2764 at least 48 hours before digging to have utility lines marked.
Douglas Freer is a Heights native and the owner of Lawn Lad, Inc., which provides residential landscape services in the Heights area. Call 216-371-1935 or visit www.lawnlad.com.