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The Top Tree Planting Tips For Beginners

Are you looking to plant a tree in your yard? If so, check out this guide to learn the top tips for planting trees for beginners.

Planting trees is symbolic: it says you’re here to stay to watch the tree grow. One day the tree will be taller than you. You’ll enjoy its shade, and perhaps even its fruit.

When it comes to planting a tree in your yard, you have to make quite a few decisions. It’s not something you should rush into, either. The tree will be there for a long time so it’s worth taking the time to decide where to plant and what type of tree you want.

If you’re new to planting trees, you should know that it is pretty easy, so long as you follow the steps. We’ve put together the basics here, along with a few tips to get your tree off to a healthy start.

Where And What To Plant?

We’re assuming you already have an idea of what tree you would like to have. If you haven’t chosen yet, no matter. That’s a detail you can explore later.

The size of the tree when fully grown is one thing that you need to consider. There must be sufficient space all around the tree (below and above ground) for the tree to grow.

This means making sure it is not too close to

  • your house
  • your neighbor’s house
  • utility lines (above and below ground)
  • other trees (which are also busy growing!)
  • parts of your garden that you would prefer to keep as “sunny areas”.

A good rule of thumb is that the shape of the tree’s root system is roughly the shape of the tree above ground, although in some cases the root system might spread wider than the extent of the branches. The reason for this is that when it rains, the outer branches of the tree form what is called the “drip line”, thereby directing rainwater to the ground above its outermost roots.

Plant the tree where it will have the amount of sunshine it needs. Some trees need full sunshine, while others prefer partial sunshine. Some plants are less hardy than others; these will need a certain amount of shelter from the wind.

Deciduous trees, which are shade-bearing, do best on the south side of the house where they will give you shade in summer and allow light and warmth through the windows in the winter. Conifers like the north or windy side of the house, where they can serve and windbreaks.

There is a good diagram illustrating all these considerations. Why don’t you go out into your yard and identify possible sites for your tree now? That way, you’ll be better able to decide on the right tree for the right place.

If you are also dreaming of having the perfect lawn, you’ll need to do a little more research on which grasses are compatible with which trees. Thinking about these things before planting anything saves you a lot of bother later.

When To Plant

Early spring or late fall is generally the best time to plant a tree in the northern hemisphere, but it’s wise to check whether your specific plant is an exception to this rule. In tropical climates where the difference between summer and winter temperatures is less marked, trees can be planted pretty much at any time of the year. If in doubt, ask the knowledgeable folk at your local nursery.

Planning Your Garden

Often, as new homeowners, you need to get rid of existing trees that have grown too old, as can be the case with conifers, which risk falling down and causing damage to your house. Trees that interfere with utility lines often need to be removed too. To find out more about the tree removal from your garden, you need to contact specialists.

Now that you have removed a tree, you’ll need to replace it with something new.

How To Choose Your Tree At The Nursery

Make sure that the pot the tree is in is not too small for the size of the tree. If it is, the roots “grow back on themselves”, and the chances of your tree surviving healthily are reduced. Packaging may vary, but in all cases, your tree should have a well-developed root ball, best shown in this video.

Digging The Hole When Planting Trees

If you’re planting on soil covered with grass, dig down a little (about four to six inches) and remove the turf, then start digging the actual soil.
The hole should be at least three times the diameter of the container the plant comes in, or the extent of the roots. The hole should be deep enough for the “trunk flare” to be showing just above the ground. The trunk flare is the base of the trunk where it begins to widen.

Dig a little deeper than that to loosen the soil immediately beneath where you will be placing the tree. This makes it easier for the roots to take root.

There is no need to use chemical fertilizers. In fact, these could harm the roots of the trees, and nowadays this is not recommended.

What some organic gardeners to with clay soils that do not drain well is dig down another six inches or so, and place vegetative matter – such as lawn clippings and dry leaves at the base of the hole, and then a couple of handfuls of worm compost, or indeed, a handful of worms, before covering this with the original soil dug out of the hole. This seems to help the tree acclimatize to its new location and help with initial plant vigor.

Place your plant upright in the hole, and ensure that you have positioned it straight. If you have someone helping you, you can always get them to look at the tree from several different angles to make sure this is the case.

Backfilling

Now it is time to backfill – or put the soil you had dug out of the hole back in around the plant. Don’t rush this part of the job. You want to avoid creating air pockets. Ensure you get an even distribution of soil all around the plant.

Once all the soil is in, stand on it to press it down gently. Not a lot of force is required. Most gardeners make a raised lip with the soil around the diameter of the soil to create a kind of “well”. This is so that when you water the plant the water stays around the base of the tree, which gives the tree maximum benefit.

Mulching

It is a good idea to put at least six to eight inches of vegetative matter, called mulch, around your newly planted tree. Hay, or straw, is often the cheapest option, but nurseries stock other products which are also very good, such as coir mulch.

A word of warning, though: do not place the mulch right up to the base of the trunk. Leave a little space between the trunk and the mulch itself. This will prevent the base of the trunk from rotting, which happens most often with fruit trees.

Mulch is useful for the purposes of water retention and, as it happens, for providing a nice dark environment for worms and other bugs good for the soil to thrive.

Growth

You’ll know that your tree is happy once you start to see new shoots or buds forming. You’ll soon begin to understand why people find planting trees so rewarding, even years after they first dug the hole.

This is a good time to educate yourself about whether your tree will need pruning, and how and when.

We have loads of advice on all sorts of gardening matters on our website and encourage you to browse around and see what other tips you can pick up.

In the meantime, good luck with your tree planting, and happy gardening!

About the Author Lucy .Carey

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