Tree Planting Rules
The following is a step by step
guide compiled by Prof. Carl Whitcomb of Oklahoma State University after
a series of field trials testing traditional methods of tree planting.
Please note the emphasis on watering:
1. Select plants well-adapted
to the soil, light level and micro climates of the site.
2. Make the planting hole as
wide as possible, at least 18 to 24 inches wider than the root ball.
3. If the spade has glazed the
sides of the hole, break up the compacted soil.
4. Fill the hole with the same
soil removed from the hole. Don't mix amendments with the
5. To get rid of air pockets,
water as you backfill. If you tread the soil around the tree or
shrub, tread lightly.
6. Water several hours after
planting and again every 7 - 10 days for the first season.
7. Mulch heavily
five to seven feet out from trees, three to four feet from shrubs.
Mulch three to four inches deep using barkdust or compost.
8. Prune as little as
possible. Remove only damaged branches. Prune for shape after the
plant is well-established.
9. Stake only if necessary
(for trees with especially large canopies).
10. Fertilize immediately
after planting and again the next fall after leaf drop. Use
slow release organic fertilizer. Apply only to soil surface.
tree planting techniques
in a nut-shell:
Plant in unamended soil: A
tree or shrub planted in unamended soil adjusts quickly and makes
steady, uninterrupted progress. A tree planted in soil with compost,
manure or peat moss and fertilizers added to the planting hole may start
out well. But as soon as new roots hit the unamended soil surrounding
the planting hole, it is often severely set back.
Staking often not necessary.
Except when planting large trees with broad canopies, field trials have
shown most young trees do better without staking. The natural air
movement encourages strong root growth.
Early pruning does more harm than
good. The common practice of top pruning a tree or shrub to make up
for root loss in transplanting actually stimulates more top growth
at the expense of root growth. Remove only damaged branches at planting.