New Trees — First, and so you won’t worry too much, keep the pot and the receipt. Most nurseries will guarantee their plants for a year so if something happens you can pull it up and exchange it. If fate is going to strike your new tree it usually happens in the first month or two.
1. Choose the spot. Make sure the area is not crowded by other trees and allows the tree to grow up and out over the years. Of course you’ll want your tree in a spot that looks good, but it also needs to offer the appropriate amount of sunlight and nutrients.
Check the tag to see how much sunlight the tree needs and ask the neighbor kid who is always eating dirt to come over and test yours. Or you could go on to step 2 and we’ll make sure your soil is okay.
2. Dig a hole. Dig at least a foot wider and deeper than the size of the pot. This will give your tree an area where new roots can easily grow. If you had to remove some rocks, don’t put them back in the hole—just dirt.
Mix the dirt from the hole with a bag of nutritious potting soil. Put enough dirt back in the hole so that the top of the root ball will be 1-2 inches below the ground level (good thing I included a diagram…). Don’t pack this dirt; instead, water it for a few minutes to help it settle.
3. Pots. Plastic pots should be gently removed. Lay the tree on its side and push on the bottom of the pot to loosen the root ball. Pull on the dirt to remove the tree and try not to pull on the trunk (this could damage the roots and then you’ll have to return it and get that other tree that you didn’t like as much).
If the tree is in a paper pot or a brown itchy sack then follow the instructions that come with it. Usually, the bottom of the paper pot will need to be removed before planting.
4. Insert tree. Place the root ball in the hole on the nutritious dirt you put back in. Pack the remaining dirt around the hole so the tree is standing straight. If you don’t pack the dirt tight enough around the root ball the tree may lean. You may need an opinionated person to help make sure the tree is straight while you pack the dirt.
Make sure you have buried the entire root ball about 1-2 inches to help keep the roots from drying out. Finally, water your tree right away with low pressure water for at least an hour to allow the water to soak in a few feet and help your newly packed dirt settle.
5. Keep watering it. Your new tree will still need you keep an eye on it and you should water it regularly until the fall. This article will give you tips on caring for a new tree.
Once upon a time we were helping an wonderful lady remodel her planting beds. In her back yard she had an old ornamental plum tree that was held up by 6 ropes and stakes and she asked our opinion. The tree was loose and wobbly so we set up a program to help strengthen the roots.
A week later after a severe microburst we checked on her tree and it had blown over (I’m surprised this hadn’t happened before). Whoever planted the tree had only dug down 12 inches and planted the tree on top of a large rock. The tree’s main support (or tap root) had to grow sideways instead of straight down so the tree had to be on crutches (ropes and stakes) for its whole life. The end.
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