Tree Planting

Planting time is important. When is the best time to plant a tree? -- some say 20 years ago. It is an unselfish act to plant a tree for we plant trees and anticipate their glory, not for ourselves, but for the next generation. But if no one had the foresight to plant in the past for today's enjoyment and benefits or if your landscape design is just starting out, plant during the cooler months of the year. For best results, plant during the dormant season of mid October to late March. The tree's energy will be devoted to root growth, rather than stems, twigs or leaves. Whether a balled and burlapped or bare-rooted tree is planted, about 90 - 95% of the root system has been reduced (depending on the age of the tree). A strong, vibrant root system is essential to the health and well being of the above ground portion of the tree.

Dig a broad shallow hole 3 times as wide and only as deep as the root ball so the root flare is visible, or 2 - 3 inches less to allow for mulch. Do not amend the soil in the planting hole. If extensive bed areas are amended, that is a different matter. But just amending a 3 foot wide whole is no longer recommended. Mychorrhizal fungi should be added at planting according to the directions on the package.

Identify where the trunk flare is, the point at which the roots spread out from the base. Container grown trees may have the root flare covered -- uncover it. The trunk flare must be visible. Do not dig the hole deeper than the height from the bottom of the root ball to the point of trunk flare to avoid settling (and the trunk flare being covered up). Trees planted too deep cause the roots to suffer from lack of oxygen, putting the tree under stress, which in turn, cause insect and disease problems.

Remove any material from around the root ball such as wire, burlap and plastic. Be careful not to damage the roots or branches during this process. Lift the tree into the planting hole by the root ball, not by the trunk. Cutting the container may be necessary in removing the tree for planting. Place the tree in the hole and be sure the trunk flare is visible. It is acceptable for the flare to be 2 - 3 inches above ground level -- too high is better than too low.

Place the tree in straight. Step back and view the tree before backfilling the hole. Fill in a third of the hole and pack the soil in firmly. Fill the remainder of the hole, packing firmly to eliminate air pockets. To insure the air pockets are eliminated, fill the hole with water during stages, waiting for the water to soak in before continuing with the backfill.

Do not add fertilizer.

Staking is often not necessary for a prime nursery grown specimen properly planted. However, in our wind conditions while the tree is young, support may be advisable. If staking is used, two stakes should be used with a wide, flexible
material that does not damage the bark and trunk. Remove the staking after the first year. Studies have shown that trees develop quicker and stronger without staking.

Apply a 2-4 inch layer of mulch around the tree ring. Do not mulch right up to the tree trunk. Mulch from Amarillo's chipping sites works great. Mulch helps hold in moisture and moderates the soil temperature. As the root ball is so small, do not plant annuals or perennials atop the root zone -- this includes turf. A mulch ring 2 - 4 feet around the trunk is essential to giving the trees the best start possible. Mulching this area helps prevent weeds, thus eliminating the hazard of using a string trimmer up close to the bark. Scaring the bark with a weed trimmer damages the tree, often fatally. (Information from Trees Are Good Website.)

Angie Hanna