News and Blog Articles
News and Blog Articles
Whether you’re looking to spruce up your home’s curb appeal, need some shade for the kids in the backyard, or just want to fill up some empty space, planting trees is a great choice for any homeowner. But how do you make sure that the tree you plant actually survives into adulthood? Let’s walk through some tips that will help you grow a strong, healthy tree you can enjoy for years to come.
Pick a Tree
The first thing you need to do when deciding to plant a tree is to figure out what you want to plant! To do that, you need to think about why you are planting a tree at all.
If you’re looking to make your front yard more visually appealing, you’re probably in the market for a smaller, ornamental tree. Check out our article on the best trees to plant for decoration in Georgia if you need some ideas.
On the other hand, if you’re hoping for some shade, then you definitely want a larger tree – but you also want one that grows pretty fast, so you’re actually around to enjoy it! Maybe you’re hoping to successfully grow fruit trees to enjoy the, er, fruits of your labor. Or maybe you want a privacy fence to create some distance between you and the neighbors.
Whatever purpose you have in mind for your new tree, knowing ahead of time will help you decide what species to plant.
Pick a Spot
While you’re thinking about the type of tree you want, you should also start thinking about where you want to put it. For example, maybe you’re looking to add a flowering tree to the small garden bed by your front porch. You may consider the dogwood, but these babies can still get pretty tall and wide, and their root system definitely needs some space to spread out, meaning that small garden bed might actually be too small, and your tree won’t be able to flourish.
On the other hand, if you have a wide-open space with no other plants in sight, then you’ll need to keep in mind that whatever you plant there is going to be exposed to the elements with no protection whatsoever. That means you need something with a strong root system and a hardiness to winds, rains, and sunshine – like the water oak!
While you’re thinking about where you want to plant, remember to account for the roots. One of the biggest reasons trees fail is because their roots don’t have enough room to spread out, so the tree can’t get enough nutrients to survive. You also want to watch out for the roots, because they can do some serious damage to anything nearby, like your driveway or even your home’s foundation!
Pick a Time
The last thing you want when you plant a new tree is for the first freeze of the winter season to kill it off, so be sure to think about what time of year it is when you start looking to plant. A good rule of thumb for planting new trees is at the tail-end of winter, right before the weather really starts to warm up for spring. In the Athens area, that usually means around March, or right now!
Once you’ve got the what, when, and where figured out, it’s time to actually plant your new tree. The basics? Dig a hole, put the new tree in it, and cover the tree with dirt. But there are a lot of factors to consider during these steps:
The hole should be 2 to 3 times wider than the root ball itself. You’ll fill this empty space back up with looser soil when you cover the root ball, and this will make it easier for fledgling roots to spread out and get established.
Dig Deep – but not too deep!
When you cover the root ball back up, you want the trunk flare to just barely be visible above the dirt. The trunk flare is the point where the trunk flares out at the very base of the tree. This flare can be subtle, but that is the point that you want the soil to reach. Make sure when you’re digging that your hole is deep enough that the trunk flare will sit just above the ground.
Unwrap and Unbind
Some trees come with netting or even wire cages around the root ball. This is done to keep the roots together and protected during transport, but when you’re ready to plant, these obstructions need to be removed. Otherwise, they may hinder root growth and cause your tree to fail.
This is more of an aesthetics thing, but try to plant your tree as straight up and down as possible. If your tree is planted crooked, there’s a good chance it will grow crooked, too – at least at first. The base of the tree might go off at an angle before growing straight up, giving your trunk a curve to it for the rest of its life.
Once you’ve ensured that your tree is in a hole of proper width and depth, and the tree is standing up straight, it’s time to cover the roots with soil. The end goal here is to have packed but not compacted soil – so pack it down as you go, and water every few layers to help reduce air bubbles, but don’t try to compact the soil as hard as you can. You want it loose enough for the tree’s roots to be able to navigate easily, but not so loose that the roots don’t have anything to hold onto as they grow.
Once the soil is in place, it’s time to decide whether your new tree needs stakes. Generally, you want to avoid stakes if possible; studies have shown that trunks and root systems establish quicker and stronger on their own. But if your tree is in a windy, exposed area, staking might be your only choice.
Once your tree is planted (and staked, if need be), it’s time to think short- and long-term care. One of the best things you can do for a new tree is to mulch the ground around it. Think 2 to 3 inches, with a thinner layer at the base of the trunk. This will help the ground around the tree retain much-needed moisture without creating an environment for trunk rot.
From there, you’ll want to water your tree about once a week. If it rains, you can consider that the week’s watering. If you end up in a long, hot dry spell, then you may want to up that to two waterings a week.
So there you have it! All the basics you need to successfully plant a new tree. If you still aren’t sure, and want more advice on what or where to plant, feel free to give us a call! Our Certified Arborist, Scott, is always happy to offer his professional opinion. If you’ve planted a new tree and you’re concerned about its health, consider scheduling a free estimate with us! We’ll come out to make sure everything’s okay, and offer some solutions if they aren’t.
Emily Casuccio is sister and sister-in-law to Rebekah and Scott Rushing, and has over half a decade of experience in copywriting, copyediting, proofreading, and developmental storyboarding. She's worked with both published and undiscovered authors on both fiction and nonfiction, and takes pride in supporting local businesses. Her passion lies in the written word and helping authors of all capacities realize their dreams and achieve their fullest potential. To learn more about her, read samples of her work, or contact her, visit her online portfolio.