Plant a Tree

Kittery group planting a tree.

Planting a tree is a great way to beautify your property, provide wildlife habitat and environmental benefits in one easy step. Once you have picked the right tree for your needs and found the perfect spot – how do you plant it?

Trees are often sold in one of three ways: balled and burlapped, container grown or bare-root. Bare root stock is often the least available, but the easiest to plant. The Arbor Day Foundation has some great videos on how to plant all three types.

Balled and burlapped is the most common way landscape trees are sold. While transporting or lifting these trees, always carry them by the rootball to avoid damage to the tree. When you have determined the perfect spot for your particular tree dig a hole the same depth as and 2-3 times wider than the rootball. Place the tree in the center of the hole, making sure the bark collar of the tree is not below ground level. If it is too low, replace enough soil under the rootball to raise it up. Now use wire cutters to remove the wire cage and burlap from around the roots. If the roots appear to circle or spiral around, you can gently tease them outward, but don’t destroy the integrity of the rootball. If necessary, use bypass pruners or a knife to cut circling roots to prevent future problems. Make sure your tree is straight, then backfill the hole with the original soil, tamping it down as you fill to remove air pockets. Do not slope soil over the root collar. You can create a shallow “moat” around the edge of the hole to catch water. Be sure to water deeply and thoroughly. Add a 2-4” layer of organic mulch over the surface of the filled hole, leaving a 4” ring of bare soil around the trunk. You can also prune any dead or damaged branches. Water deeply once a week during the growing season for the first year or two. Don’t forget to remove labels or tags from the tree so they won’t damage the tree as it grows.

If you give your new investment the right start, it will reward you for decades to come.