Tree Planting Guide


Decide on the perfect location for your new tree by making sure there is enough unobstructed height (no power lines, etc.) and width for the species of tree your planting. If you suspect any underground utilities might be where you want to dig, call 811, at least 2 days prior to digging to get a utility locater at your site. It’s good to drive a labeled wooden stake where you want to dig so the locate contractor doesn’t mark your entire yard with paint. Most trees require full sun, or they may grow lopsided toward the light.

Now that you’ve picked the perfect planting site, measure the tree container height and width to determine hole size. I recommend a hole that is at least 12 inches wider but no deeper than the container. This prevents the tree from settling too deep in loose soil and encourages the roots to grow laterally into the surrounding back fill zone filled with the improved soil described below.

When digging your hole, I like to spread a tarp out to place the excavated soil on, good soil in one pile, debris in another pile or your wheelbarrow to haul off (avoids double handling). The good soil you will want to amend 50% your soil, 40% aged compost, and 10% coarse sand.  Then fill the space between the edge of the hole and the root ball with this mix. If you have no good soil, you can purchase our bulk planting mix by the tractor 1/2-yard scoop, or bagged planting mix from reputable Landscape Supply Yards, or just get some black dirt (not loam) and follow my soil recipe.

After removing your tree from the container, look for any large circling roots. There will always be some, but if you find many large roots, you may want to cut 2 to 3 inches deep into the center of the root ball, in three staggered places. A battery powered hole saw works great for this task. This will encourage the roots to shoot out into your new mix and break out of the circling pattern faster. Carefully place the tree into the center of the prepared hole, keeping the root ball intact, no deeper than the existing soil elevation, turning the canopy as desired, and then back fill with your custom soil blend. While holding the tree straight up, water thoroughly and deeply to chase all the air pockets out of the soil and stabilize the tree. Your tree should now be at the same elevation as the surrounding soil, if not just add or remove soil. It’s advisable to build a donut shaped water well at the edge of the excavated hole to aid in deep watering your root ball as needed. This can generally be leveled out a year after planting when you also remove your metal T-Posts.

Large trees should be staked with 6-foot metal t-posts to prevent the tree and root ball from moving in the wind. If the tree root ball moves it will continuously tear the small feeder roots attempting to establish your tree in its new home. The t-posts should be driven into the undisturbed soil, a few inches away from the edge of the hole, angled slightly outward at the top. Two t-posts are adequate for a 15 gallon and most 30-gallon trees; however, I would use three t-posts on a 45 gallon, and possibly four t-posts on very large trees like our 65- gallon and 95- gallon size trees. Most trees need the t-posts to remain installed for a period of at least one year. Make sure the rope or twine holding your tree trunk to the stakes doesn’t cut into the bark of the tree by insulating with a piece of black hose, (soaker, poly pipe, etc.) or a Tree Wrap material which we have for the DIY.

The addition of a 2-inch mulch layer will help suppress any weed growth and retain moisture. Do not place mix or mulch against the trunk of the tree!