Your greatest opportunity to improve the environment exists outside your living room window. By properly planting trees around your home you cool it in summer and slow winter winds, reducing the demand for electricity and the production of greenhouse gases. Compacted soil around homes requires special care when planting. The American Forestry Association has proposed a new planting technique. Follow the steps below to successfully plant your trees!
- Prepare a planting area 3-5 times the diameter of the root ball, and just as deep as the root ball.
- Using a rot-tiller or shovel, loosen and mix the soil to the depth of the tree's root ball within this area
- Dig a shallow hole in the center for the prepared area only as deep as the root ball, setting the tree on solid rather than on loose soil.
- Set the tree in the center of the shallow hole from the previous step. Cut any wires or ropes securing the burlap around the root ball and pull the burlap or wires far enough away so that they can be buried later.
- If your tree's root ball has a container, cut and remove it first, then set the tree in the hole.
- For a container-grown tree, check to see if encircling roots are present. If the roots appear to circle the container, gently separate them and spread them into the planting hole. If the encircling roots are too large to pull apart, cut them.
- When placing the root ball in the hole, make sure it's top is level with the top of the surrounding soil. If the site has poor drainage (heavy, clay soil), plant the tree so the top of the root ball is one to two inches above the surrounding soil.
- Position the tree's main stem so that it is perpendicular to the ground and fill the hole
- Use water instead of your feet to settle the soil (this prevents over packing)
- Apply 2" to 4" of mulch (bark, wood chips, old sawdust or leaf mold) to cover the entire prepared area. Do not put mulch within 6" to 8" of the tree bark.
- Water your newly planted trees once a week. Frequent sprinkling that only wets the surface is not as good as thoroughly soaking the area where you want the roots to grow.
- Young trees should not be fertilized for 6 months after planting unless a slow-release fertilizer is used. Some slow-releases fertilizers come in a packet that can be placed in the planting hole.
- Remove any trunk wrappings or protective tape unless the tree's bark has been broken or disturbed. The cotton thread used to hold the wrap in place is one of the leading killers of young trees.
- Only if needed, stake the tree with a flexible wood or metal stake so it can bend with the wind. A small section of rubber inner tube can be used to hold the tree for the first six months. Do not use wire, and do not fasten the stake firmly to the tree. A figure eight knot will prevent the stake from rubbing against the tree.
For more information and tips on planting, check out this brochure: Tree Planting Brochure