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HOW TO PLANT A TREE

Maureen Sexsmith-West

ISA Certified Arborist, PR4600A


With all the trees and shrubs arriving at the garden centres throughout the region, I thought it would be a good idea to provide some tips on planting to help give your tree or shrubs the best start possible. Planting a tree is a great investment – don’t cut corners. Start with the right tree for the location – sun, size, location and function. I have supported the Arbor-Day Foundation for many years. They are advocates for trees and offer a wide selection of excellent consumer information. I have included three of their videos and handouts to help guide you. I do have a few added tips that I have identified over the past several years and items specific to our region. I am sure where the video is being filmed, they don’t have the same heavy clay soils we face. I emphasise their point about prepping the growing area. I always recommend spending the most time prepping the site to give your tree the best soil medium. There is no point planting a $200 tree in a hole that takes 10 minutes to prepare. Rooting will take longer and could result in long term girdled root systems that leave the tree unstable. Don’t expect to see a lot of growth above ground – this is actually a good thing – you want your tree to establish the root system first. I prefer to use our native soils for planting without amendments (as mentioned in the videos). A tree that has to transition from deluxe potting mixes will not want to stray into the “deluxe” soils at the edge of your planting hole. I prefer to shake off any loose materials from the container and blend them with our native soils. This is like a transition area from Yahoo to Oh My. Gently loosen the roots. If there is a lot of encircling roots, the video gives a great demonstration on how to approach this issue.


One other item that is discussed, but not illustrated, is the issue of the root collar and the appropriate grade for planting. I found this excellent photo at The Family Handyman.com to illustrate. it is not uncommon to find trees planted too deep in the pot. Be sure to locate the root flare area by gently removing any extra soil or mulch. You may also purchase trees that are growing from a root graft. This is evident by change in taper and is used when a more hardy root stock is needed to sustain the tree.

Don’t fertilize with a high nitrogen based product for the first year. A small amount of transplant fertilizer is okay. You can incorporate organic products such as bone meal or compost but make sure they are well blended into the soil first. Adding mycorrhizal fungus can be helpful. Mycorrhiza is a symbiotic association between a fungus and the roots of a vascular plant. In a mycorrhizal association, the fungus colonizes the host plant’s roots increasing it’s capacity to absorb nutrients from the soil.


BAREROOT plants are often sold in bundles or 10 or 25. They include plants that are suitable for shelter belt planting or hedges. Some fruit, such as raspberries, are sold this way too. They are void of containers and are maintained in a moist organic product such as peat or mulch to keep roots from drying out. The most important thing to remember is DO NOT LET ROOTS DRY OUT. Bareroot Notes Barefoot Video CONTAINER PLANTS include any and all flowers, trees and shrubs that are either grown from seed or bareroot stock that has been transferred into a container ready for sale. Trees are easily transported and range in sizes from 1 gallon to 20 gallon containers. The growing medium is usually very porous including a lot of organic materials such as bark mulch. This eanbles roots to expand readily. The down side to containers is that the space they have to grow is limited and encircled (or girdling) is a frequent occurrence. Don’t be afraid to have a close look at the condition of the roots. Look for weeds, suckering or roots escaping out of the bottom drainage holes. If it has too many of these issues, you will want to select another plant to take home.


BALLED AND BURLAP trees. For some people, bigger is better. Sadly, as an aftercare professional, we are called in to identify and resolve health issues, only to find that many of these high valued trees were incorrectly installed and have resulted in numerous complications down the road. IT IS ESSENTIAL for the long term health and safety of your tree, to prepare a planting hole 2-3 times the size of the root ball, check the grade, stabilize the tree and then REMOVE ALL CONTAINER MATERIALS. The video covers this beautifully. B&B Video B&B Handout


If you are hiring a landscaper or contractor – oversee the installation. We offer warranty installation services if you cannot be on-site to protect your investment. Don’t let this happen to you.

H A P P Y

P L A N T I N G

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