How to Plant and Care for Trees
Get off on the right foot:
- Dig the correct hole.
- Don’t dig any deeper than the original nursery container or the root ball, but always make a tapering hole about twice as wide. (Digging deeper could cause settling and create major problems.) Mix in enough organic matter with your native soil until you obtain a 50-50 mix.
If the plant is in a plastic container, gently but firmly grasp it at the soil line and remove it. Peat pots or other plantable containers should have the lip around the top cut or torn off and be scored down the sides in two or three places. On balled & burlapped material, it is not necessary to completely remove the burlap. Instead position the plant, level it, and backfill a bit to stabilize. Cut the strings, remove any nails pinning the burlap and with your hands or a shovel, scrunch the burlap down around the ball. The burlap rots and roots grow through it. If any burlap is left exposed to the atmosphere after planting, it can act as wick on hot, windy days and pull moisture away from the root system. Some larger plants are contained in a wire basket. There is no need to remove it.
Set the plant so that ground level is the same as in the container or root ball. Backfill with the amended soil and water well with Ferti-lome Root Stimulator. Some settling will probably occur around the edge, add more soil and firm it in. Don’t pack it. Use the remaining soil to form a shallow bowl around the perimeter of the hole and fill the basin with plain water.
Make a minimum 4 – 8 foot diameter circle, and mulch with a 2” layer of bark mulch. Keep the mulch at least 2 – 3 inches away from the trunk to keep the trunk wood dry and deter burrowing rodents.
Water once each week unless you receive at least an inch of slow rainfall. Watering too often can be more of a problem than too seldom. Red Maple varieties, Birch, Bald Cypress and Sweet Gum may require watering twice a week during hot weather.
You may use a soaker hose for 2 – 4 hours per week to slowly trickle water into the area around the base of the tree. It is critical, for establishment, to continue watering during July and August.
Until the tree is about 6 inches in diameter or develops a rough textured bark, we recommend that you wrap your tree with tree wrap from November 1 through April 1 each year to minimize winter damage.
Purchase tree wrap at Hoerr Nursery and encircle the tree with a continuous piece of tree wrap from the base up to the first branch. Tie off the wrap with degradable twine or cotton string. You will remove the wrap each year, but in case you forget, the degradable tie will disintegrate and fall off — which is important or else the tie may strangle the tree.
As a general rule, we do not recommend staking trees. Normally, trees benefit from the natural movement of wind and weather. If you are planting on a severe slope, or are planting a “container” tree, please ask us about staking. We have staking kits for sale at Hoerr Nursery.
Newly planted trees and trees stressed from heat, drought, excessive water, restricted roots or other factors are susceptible to borers and other insects.
There is now a new insecticide product available for a single application in early May for control of a variety of insects. Bayer Tree and Shrub Insect Control (Imidacloprid) can be applied around the base of the tree for season-long control. This applies to all trees except bald cypress & evergreens. Follow printed label directions. Call us for further help or advice if tree problems occur.
The first season, use root stimulator according to directions, using a 10 – 20 gallon solution of water every two to three weeks during June, July and August. After the first season, we recommend granular Ferti-lome Tree and Shrub Food.
Expect deer and rabbit damage no matter where you live. The best protection outside of a 10’ high double mesh fence is Ferti-lome. This One Works for discouraging deer and Ropel for deterring deer, rabbits and many other nuisance animals. These products do not hurt the critters but they leave an atrocious taste in their mouths.
Newly planted trees and shrubs generally require no pruning; the plant needs all the reserves in its branches to establish quickly in your landscape. Of course, broken or damaged limbs should be removed and minor shaping is fine. The ideal pruning time varies with the plant. As a rule don’t prune from August through mid-October. Late summer pruning can induce new growth that won’t have time to harden off before winter.
Rule of Thumb: The best time to prune is when your shears are sharp. The point is that most people under prune. But the ideal time to prune flowering shrubs is after the show over, when the flowers are no longer ornamental.
So prune spring flowering shrubs such as Forsythia, Flowering Almond Viburnum, etc., after the spring show. Prune summer flowering shrubs such as the Dwarf Pink Spirea group, Potentilla, Rose of Sharon, Smokebush, etc., in the spring or after the show, just don’t prune too late in the year.
Should I Stake My Trees?
Usually, no. Wind is part of Nature’s wondrous design. The gentle swaying of trees stimulates the demand for calcium and strengthens the plant. However if yours is a particularly windy location or the tree you installed is disproportionately top-heavy in relation to the ball, one loosely fitted support on the southwest side is often enough to keep the tree straight.