- Check for underground utilities call 1-800-DIG-RITE (1-800-344-7483).
- Dig hole at least twice as wide and 1 times as deep as root ball.
- Clean sides of hole to allow for root growth. On most plants nearly all the roots grow from the sides rather than the bottom of the root ball.
- Remove plants from container. If plant is in burlap, do NOT remove burlap.
- Place root ball in the hole gently with top of ball level with surrounding ground.
- Burlap plants cut the twine away from the trunk to prevent choking, lay burlap back from trunk leaving burlap to cover root ball.
- Backfill around root ball with good soil mix to the soil level of the root ball. Peat or sand can be added as well.
- Flood hole and work shovel in the soil to remove air pockets.
- Finish filling hole and build up a small dike around the hole to help catch water.
- Add ferti-lome Root Stimulator (3.5 tbsp per gallon of water) to top and slowly sink in.
- Add mulch at a depth of approximately 3” to help cool ground and retain moisture.
- When watering your tree or shrub, slowly soak the ground for a deep watering. Once a week in 70° temperatures, twice a week in 80-90° and three times a week above 90°.
- Fertilize most trees and shrubs twice a year.
- Winter watering, if below average precipitation, slow soak trees and shrubs once every 3 to 4 weeks.
Newly planted plants require routine watering. Typically, 5-7 gallons, applied to the root ball once a week, is an appropriate quantity of water to add to a newly planted tree or shrub; however, differing soil and weather conditions will affect the frequency with which water must be added. Examine the soil moisture 4-8 inches deep to determine the need for water. If the soil feels dry or just slightly damp, watering is needed. Soil type and drainage must also be considered. Well-drained, sandy soil will need more water, and more often than a clay soil that may hold too much water. A slow trickle of the garden hose at the base of the plant for several hours or until the soil is thoroughly soaked is the best method. Short, frequent watering should be avoided as this does not promote deep root growth but rather, the development of a shallow root system that is vulnerable to several environmental stresses. Most new plantings will require the equivalent of 1” water per week to get established.
Adding mulch around the base of the plant is a very important part of plant care that is often overlooked. By mulching plants, a more favorable environment is provided for the tree roots. Mulch allows better infiltration of water, holds soil moisture, limits weed growth, and discourages injury from lawnmowers and weed whips. A 3-6 inch layer of mulch, spread to form a 3-6 foot diameter circle around the plant, should be applied. Keep the mulch material from direct contact with the tree trunk. Wood and bark chips are good mulching materials. A porous landscape fabric that allows gas and water exchange can be used as a broadleaved weed barrier underneath the chips. Plastic under mulch can cause roots to suffocate and is not recommended.
Fertilization of newly planted plants may be done every 2-3 years in the fall after leaves have fallen or in early spring before growth begins. It can be applied to the surface or placed in holes around the plants. Beware of burning turf if surface-applied. Surface applications should be watered in. Do not apply nitrogen in late summer unless the plant is nutrient deficient, as this can promote new growth that may not harden off properly and can be damaged by winter weather. Phosphorous and potassium can be applied in the fall as they will enhance winter acclimation.
Trees and shrubs generally do not need to be pruned immediately before or after planting as most nurseries prune out co-dominant leaders, limbs that rub against each other, and poorly angled branches, prior to sale. If these problems haven’t been pruned in the nursery, remove them after planting. Some limbs may be damaged in transit from the nursery to the planting site. Plants should be inspected and these limbs removed immediately after planting.
Most newly planted trees will do better without staking. Young trees standing alone with their tops free to move will develop stronger, more resilient trunks than those staked for several years. Trunk movement is required to develop strong, tapered trunks. If however, a tree is unstable in a strong wind or is pushed over, then staking is required. A common problem with staking trees is the girdling effect that the ties can have on the tree. Soft nylon webbing or carpet strips attached by grommets to a stake can reduce this damage. Often, wire is too tight around the trunk and will effectively girdle and kill the tree. Whatever material is used, be sure to allow for some movement, and remove the stakes and ties once the tree is established—usually after one year.
Proper winter care begins in the summer. Proper watering and fertilization in spring and summer is required. Watering can be decreased in early fall and increased in late fall to provide water needed to withstand the drying winds of winter. Plants need to go dormant; don’t encourage late growth by heavy watering and nitrogen fertilization in early fall. Plants should be thoroughly watered in late fall just prior to the soil freezing. Sunscald, characterized by sunken, dried, or cracked bark, is caused by the heating effect of the winter sun in cold weather. It usually occurs on the south or southwest side of the tree. In the fall, wrap young and thin-barked trees with commercial tree wrap from the bottom up to the first major branch. Remove the wrap in spring. Thin-barked species such as maples and honey locusts may require protection for several years. Winter browning of evergreens is normally caused by the combined effects of wind and sun. Trees lose water from the leaves (needles) while roots are in frozen soil. To protect evergreens, place a screen of burlap or similar material on the south, west, and windward side of the tree to block wind and sun. Antidesiccant sprays are not very effective in offsetting the drying effects. Water evergreens well throughout the growing season, lightly in September, and then thoroughly again before the soil freezes. Select species and cultivars that tolerate winter conditions. Plant species are susceptible to winter injury in areas of minimal exposure to winter wind and sun. Animal damage can be severe during the winter. To protect individual trees from mice, place a cylinder of 1/4-inch mesh hardware cloth or plastic drain pipe (it should not be black in color) around the trunk. The cylinder should extend high enough to prevent animals from feeding at snow level, and should be firmly anchored in the soil without disturbing the tree roots. Protection from rabbits requires coverage of up to 1 to 2 feet above snow level. Other means of fencing or animal control may be needed. If many trees and shrubs are to be protected, application of a commercial repellent may be more practical. The repellent can be sprayed or painted on the trunks and branches. The effectiveness and duration of the repellent will depend on the severity of the winter and the availability of other food.