Plant a tree (prop­erly) and watch it grow

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - MIKE ALLEN

IGET many ques­tions each year about how to plant a tree prop­erly. Here are some ba­sic guide­lines to help you. You might want to save them for fu­ture ref­er­ence. I also have guide­lines for those prop­erty own­ers that want to get large trees planted with tree spades by pro­fes­sional tree movers. You can get in touch with me for more in­for­ma­tion.

1. Trees and shrubs can be planted in the spring or fall, but conif­er­ous ev­er­green trees do best when planted in late sum­mer and early fall. Choose a lo­ca­tion for the new tree that will al­low it to grow to its max­i­mum width and height with­out grow­ing into a fence, build­ing, side­walk, drive­way, un­der an­other tree, or un­der power lines. Know the typ­i­cal ma­ture height of the tree that will be planted. Most planted trees be­come quickly over­crowded.

2. Dig the plant­ing hole 0.3 to .45 me­tres deep and make it 1.2 me­tres wide.

Larger trees should be planted with this ra­tio in mind. The idea is to cre­ate a saucer-like hole. Place the tree in the cen­tre of the hole. Se­cure a string from ground level on one side and ex­tend it to the other side while avoid­ing the tree. Pull it tight and se­cure the other end at ground level.

Raise the tree so that the orig­i­nal grade from which it was dug in the nurs­ery meets the string line. Mea­sure how much soil you will need un­der the root ball to keep it at the de­sired string height. Re­move the tree from the hole.

3. Use a mix­ture of soil that in­cludes some of the orig­i­nal clay-like soil as well as black loam and or­ganic ma­te­ri­als such as rot­ted ma­nure or com­post. Place soil mix­ture un­der the root ball lo­ca­tion and tamp it in so you get the de­sired height you es­ti­mated. Make sure the soil is very firm un­der the ball. Re­place the tree and check with the string for ap­pro­pri­ate lo­ca­tion of the top of the root ball. Ad­just height as nec­es­sary.

4. Thor­oughly wa­ter the added soil and check its height. Wa­ter ad­di­tions will en­sure all trapped air in the soil is re­moved. Add more soil if nec­es­sary. Set the tree in its place and grad­u­ally add a mix of top soil and orig­i­nal dugup soil to the plant­ing pit up to the base of the root ball. Spread suf­fi­cient bone meal pow­der on the root ball to cover it.

Thor­oughly wa­ter and let drain.

5. Add soil mix­ture in lay­ers around the tree ball adding bone meal and wa­ter­ing thor­oughly each time. Re­move the burlap — if present — and twine away from the root ball once the hole is filled to half the height of the root ball. Tuck the burlap un­der the soil to ex­pose the sides of the root ball. If there is a wire bas­ket on the root ball, cut the sur­face por­tion of the wire only with wire cut­ters. Leave the sides of the wire bas­ket in­tact. Trim off any torn roots and add co­pi­ous amounts of bone meal pow­der to the ex­posed root ball soil sur­face.

6. Be sure the tree is kept straight dur­ing this process. Keep back­fill­ing with the soil mix un­til ground level is reached. Thor­oughly wa­ter. Add soil to any slumped ar­eas.

7. Fer­til­ize with plant-sol­u­ble starter fer­til­izer (e.g. plant starter fer­til­izer such as 10-52-10 or some other high phos­pho­rus, low ni­tro­gen fer­til­izer). Mix fer­til­izer in wa­ter fol­low­ing pack­age di­rec­tions. Small trees up to 4.5 me­tres in height could use four to six typ­i­cal buck­ets of wa­ter and fer­til­izer. For some tree species such as maples and birches, you should add iron chelate pow­der. I use ½ tea­spoon per 15-litre pail. It is im­por­tant to re­mem­ber the ab­sorb­ing fine root sys­tem of trees is usu­ally found in the up­per 15.2 cen­time­tres of clay loam soils. Add 5 to 7.6 cen­time­tres of wood chip/bark mulch to the en­tire saucer area.

8. Keep the mulch to a depth no greater than 2.5 to 5 cm at the trunk.

Do not use root feed­ers and fer­til­izer stakes as they are not truly ef­fec­tive for this pur­pose.

9. High phos­pho­rus fer­til­iz­ers and bone meal (slow re­lease or­ganic source of phos­pho­rus) are very im­por­tant for the growth of new roots on trans­planted trees and all other plants. Never use high ni­tro­gen fer­til­iz­ers for newly planted conif­er­ous ev­er­green trees, even if the pack­age says ‘ ev­er­green fer­til­izer,’ as this can se­ri­ously af­fect roots dam­aged from the trans­plant­ing process. Wait for at least two years (sum­mer sea­sons) af­ter trans­plant­ing the tree be­fore us­ing a slow-re­lease ni­tro­gen ev­er­green fer­til­izer.

10. Leave the tree for a week and then check the soil mois­ture. Wa­ter if the sur­face depth of 2.5 or 5 cm seem dry. Check for one more week. Let the soil dry out for a longer pe­riod of time. Reg­u­larly wa­ter newly planted trees for at least two years.

11. Be­fore win­ter, be sure to thor­oughly wa­ter the soil again. If you had to use guy wires and tree ties, check them for un­usual slack­ness or tight­ness.

12. Re­mem­ber to re­move the ties and guy wires two years af­ter plant­ing, oth­er­wise the ties will gir­dle and ei­ther se­ri­ously dam­age or kill the tree.

13. If a bare-rooted tree is be­ing planted, spread open the roots be­fore cov­er­ing them with soil and fol­low the di­rec­tions above.

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