A few tips when you are selecting and planting a tree in your yard.
If ‘Spring Fever’ has grabbed you like it has me, you’ve probably found yourself at nurseries or big box stores looking at more trees for your yard, even if your yard is already full of trees. LOL. And then there’s the issue of getting them home, especially if you haul them yourself in a small car.
Several key things to look for, in roughly this order:
Does the tree grow to a height and width that fits your planting location? Correct sun or shade growth preference?
Is the trunk straight? Does the branching create a nice, balanced shape?
Does the tree look healthy, with good color and no damage on the main trunk?
Closely examine the growing tips and underside of leaves, are they free of insect pests?
Is the tree a desirable variety, with possible disease resistance and desirable growing characteristics?
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Next you want to get your new tree home without damaging it:
Lift the tree by its growing pot or earth ball, not by the trunk. Protect the trunk from scrapes and rubs.
Most tree branches can be bundled together for a short time with twine, wrapping them from the bottom up.
Use a breathable tarp to wrap trees that are ‘in leaf’ to protect them from the sun and wind.
If you aren’t planting the tree right away, water it when you get home. Store it in a cool spot.
Before planting, trim off any broken or crossing branches, and slice circling ‘pot bound’ roots on two sides and across the bottom (sharp knife, boxcutter, pruners or sharp spade) to help prevent future problems with girdling (constricting) roots.
Plant the tree at the same ground level it grew in the nursery or in the pot, not deeper.
Dig the planting hole wide enough to easily work in backfill soil around the rootball.
If you dig the hole much deeper, be sure to compress backfill soil under the tree with your feet to prevent settling.
Use the handle of your shovel to work-in and compress backfill around the sides of the tree as you go.
After ensuring the rootball is at the right depth, try to get the tree to stand up straight on its own.
Add soil around the tree a few inches at a time, compressing it while making sure the tree is still straight (plumb) as you go. Check the tree from two sides (as in 3:00 o’clock and 6:00 o’clock on a clock face). A long handled shovel can serve as a plumb bob if you hold it with two fingers at the very top.
Continue adding soil around the rootball and compressing it with the end of the shovel handle or a 2×4, continuing to check its straightness.
Before adding the last few inches of soil around the rootball, water the tree in, allowing water to drain before adding the final soil.
Finishing the job:
You can use pre-made plastic tree trunk protection, or use paper tree wrap to protect the tree trunk, as seen in this video.
Stake the tree to help provide support for its first year. Single, double or triple methods can be used, with short stakes or taller ones. The system in the photograph looks great, but you can also use clothesline wire protected by sections of old garden hose to protect the tree trunk.
Add a couple inches of mulch around the tree, keeping it a couple inches away from the trunk. Check guy wires monthly — loosen them if necessary, to prevent constriction of the expanding trunk during the growing season.
In average soil conditions, water the new tree thoroughly once a week during its first growing season. Tree slow-watering bags are a good investment, since they free-up your time and apply the water gradually, so it has time to soak-in.
Monitor the tree for insect pests or disease problems with regular visual inspections of foliage, particularly the growing tips.