There's more to planting a tree than just dirt
Patti Erwin with the Arkansas Forestry Commission explained that there’s more to planting a tree than just sticking it in the dirt.
To start, she said, a tree planter should scrape grass off the surface before digging, which prevents grass from mixing in with the soil. It’s important, she said, not to dig too deep — the trunk of the tree should not be covered.
To loosen the tree from the plastic pot, Erwin turned it on its side and tapped the sides a few times. Once the tree is out, she said, it’s best to gently pull apart the root mass, which curls up to fit in a confined space. If this isn’t done, she said, the tree may continue to grow as though its roots are confined and the tree could die.
A tree planter should spread the roots, she said, after placing the plant in the hole, then add soil and pour a small amount of water on it. The water, she said, will help to keep the roots from drying out and soften the soil so it can gently fill in air pockets, but stepping on the soil can break roots.
“There weren’t a lot of roots, so you want to keep them,” she said.
It’s best, she said, to use soil that is already in place, she said, so the tree can more easily adapt to its new habitat, though if it is excessively rocky it can help to mix some potting soil with it. It’s also best to avoid using fertilizer for the first couple years a tree is in place, she said.
Mulch, she said, should be piled two to three inches high and not cover the trunk. Shredded mulch works well, she said, because it stays in place. Cedar works well, she said, because it helps keep bugs away.