The folks often are asking me questions about a myriad of landscape installation techniques. One area that I see people struggle with is tree planting. We sell a lot of trees and once in a while people come back and let me know that their tree died, so I thought that I would give you my secretes to our success in tree planting. Remember the #1 reason a tree usually dies is that it is over watered and drowning in an improperly prepared tree hole.

  • The Hole: My rule is 3x2 - dig the hole three times as wide and twice as deep as the root ball. Yes it will take some work to dig a hole this deep, but it is worth the effort. Build up the bottom of the hole with the soil blend and compact, set the tree in the hole with the crown of the tree slightly higher than the soil level around it.
  • Soil Mix: Most people put completely different soil in the hole---this is a mistake as the imported loose soil will only trap the roots in the hole. Better to blend some compost, our 60% soil blend, or bark with the existing on-site clay. This way the tree will eventually grow out of the loose hole that was dug and into the similar native clay soil.
  • Compact: After back-filling, compact the hole very tightly, this way the root ball is secure and water will not wash away the soil.
  • Stakes: Always stake a tree, even the smallest of trees. As the tree grows it puts out hair roots, these roots begin to take hold and turn into larger roots. If the tree gets into a bad wind and blows around, the wind will tear the newly forming hair roots, and the tree will die. A good rule of thumb is 2 growing seasons or until the tree is firmly rooted.
  • Tips: if the tree hole is in a low spot or an area with poor drainage, lay some 1-1/2 round rock or pea gravel in the bottom 1/3rd of the hole. This will help to elevate the water table in the winter or if you over water in the summer. Remember, most trees die from too much water so whatever you can do to alleviate that by installing some sort of drainage or create good runoff will help keep the tree from root rot.
  • Fertilize: Usually fertilizer would be needed after the roots are established. We have fertilizer tablets that are excellent for trees as they will slow release over time and last for years. You can purchase them at the Landscape Shoppe.

We do not guarantee our trees when they leave here, but if you dig the proper hole and combine with lots of loving care your tree will grow out nicely year after year…. Good Luck!

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