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How to Plant a Tree?

Follow these 9 simple steps to plant a tree in your community


It is officially Fall, and believe it or not Fall is the perfect time to plant trees. Why? Because we want to give our new planted trees enough time to establish roots before they are exposed to stressors like heat, low temperatures, or not enough water — which is the case during Summer or Winter time.

Here you can find the steps to successfully plant a tree.

Assuming you pick the right tree to fit your environment and place you live. Here are nine simple steps to easily guide you in your planting of your tree.

It’s not that hard (well.. a little hard), you can do it!


Step #1 — Location, location, location!

Just before you start digging, carefully consider tree selection (fruitful, evergreen, small, big, etc.), its placement, and the site conditions. The foundation for a healthy, long-lived tree is planting the right tree in the right place. An orange tree in NY is going to die fairly quick as it’s not the right climate for it. If you are not sure of the right tree for you, you should consult an arborist in your area.


Time to start digging

Start by digging a hole for where you want your tree to be planted at. To know how big the hole should be you will first need to remove the container your tree came in with, and measure the root ball (the mass of soil & roots that come out of the container). You can do that using the handle of your shovel and estimate the depth to dig.

Now it’s time to actually dig. Your whole should be as deep as the container, and 2–3 times wider than the root ball. It is very important that the root flare remains above the surface of the soil (root flare is the point where the trunk widens and becomes roots).

Pro tip — To prevent air pockets below the tree, create a small mound of soil in the base of the hole and tamp down (press firmly but do not over-compact the soil) to prevent the tree from settling.


Time for a tree massage

The tree roots were compacted in the container it came with for quite some time. Before you plant your tree in the ground, you need to give your tree roots some TLC, in a form of a massage. Not with the one essential oil, but you do need to loosen the roots and remove the nursery stake. Roots should ideally radiate out straight from the center of the root ball. To do that, you will need to lay the tree on its side with the root ball on a tarp. Using your fingers, deeply loosen and free its roots. Cut off any circling roots to prevent girdling (gridling is when circling roots get bigger, grow around the base of the tree, and cut-off the flow of water and nutrients to other parts of the tree).

Pro tip — This is a good time to cut the green ties and remove the nursery stake.


Ready to put it in the ground?

We have one chance to plant this tree right. Place the tree in the hole. Make sure the depth and position is correct, and fill in the soil. Check that the root flare lies above the surface. If it is too low or too high, lift the tree out and add or remove soil as needed. Rotate the tree until you find the best placement to keep major branches away from any walkways or buildings. Make sure you hold the tree upright while you fill in with soil around the root ball.

Gently tap down soil around the root ball with a shovel or your shoe to eliminate large air pockets.

Pro tip — Do not step directly on the root ball, as this will damage and compact the roots.


Make a soil berm for transition time

A soil berm (not for your hat) is a mound encircling the tree, 10–12 inches from the trunk, which creates a basin or bowl that will hold approximately 10 gallons of water. The inside of the berm should be at the outer edge of the root ball. This will keep the root ball moist, which is essential until the tree is established.


Stake the tree

Depending on the size of the tree you are planting, sometimes you need to stake the tree.

If your tree doesn’t need the extra support feel free to skip ahead to ‘watering your tree’.

How will you stake a tree? For starters, you will need two ‘lodge pole’ stakes. They will help the young tree grow up straight until the roots are established. If you have deers in your area, or there is a chance lawn mowers get close to it, those will be reasons to stake your tree. Place the point of the stake firmly on the ground, 8 inches away from the trunk and hold straight. Lean the top of the stake over to easily slide the stake pounder onto the stake. Use a stake pounder (a very heavy tool with two handles which fits over the end of the stake) to pound them inside the ground. Pound until the stake is firmly set and the pounder can easily be removed.

Repeat with the second or third stake spaced equally around the tree.

Pro tip — Use extreme caution when removing the pounder from the stake.


Tie the tree

Why did we add a step for tying you may ask… Because we want to make sure you tie your tree at the best location to give it the best support. Ties should be placed at the lowest point on the trunk where the tree can be held straight, generally about 4 feet from the ground. The tree should stand straight without leaning. Create a figure 8 pattern with the tie, one loop around the trunk and the other around the tree. Nail the ends of the tie together into the stake.


Time for some water

After you finish all the previous steps, you should water your tree. Fill the basin with water and reinforce the berm if needed. Your new planted tree needs constant watering. Continue watering it, until it is established (usually once a week assuming it has not been pouring rain).


Last but not least — Mulch

Cover the soil 2–3 feet around the tree base with 3–5 inches of mulch (It can be composed of wood chips, shredded bark or leaves). This step is required in-order to retain moisture, suppress weeds, and improve soil composition.

Pro tip: Keep mulch 2–3 inches from the trunk and root flare of the tree to prevent insects and rodents from burrowing in the mulch and chewing on the bark.


That’s it, you successfully planted your tree! Continue caring for your tree with water when needed. We hope this will be encouraging and helpful for your planting. Please, share with us the picture of the tree you planted. Post your newly planted tree on our Instagram or Facebook. We need to plant trillions of trees, yours count too!

1treellion aims to plant the planet. With every dollar we fundraise goes to plant trees. When we don’t support organizations and communities that plant trees we provide information to our community. Please subscribe to hear more or consider donating to the cause.

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