How to plant a tree: complete step-by-step guide for success

How to plant a tree

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Guides you through how to plant a tree, whether decorative or fruit trees, and how to plant trees according to how they are delivered.

The bad news first: You are 20 years late! At least that’s how the saying goes: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.” And the good news? “The next best time is now.”

Depending on the species, the location and whether bundled, rooted or in containers, a tree can be planted at different times of the year. Except in periods of frost and heat, many trees can be planted all year round, but rules such as depth or watering must be observed.

Trees and bushes are the backbone of the garden. They make a significant contribution to beautifying the environment, bringing shade and cool, producing fruit or even defining the design. To promote their health and development, it is important to choose the right time to plant trees. In order to understand how to plant a tree successfully, what you do depends on the type and whether they are delivered with rootballs, in bags or in pots. It also depends on the carefully considered choice of location.

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How to plant a tree: The best time of year to plant trees

Most species can in principle be planted all year round, with the exception of periods of frost in winter and hot weather in summer. However, mild species should thrive in spring, especially in temperate areas. Here are some examples:

Other more robust species — cold-resistant ones — can be planted in both spring and autumn. Winter and summer are also conceivable; if you plant in summer, you only need to pay attention to frequent watering in the year of planting and the following year. If they are planted in winter, they should be covered with a hibernation veil to protect them from frost. It is also necessary to protect the roots by covering them with mulching, shredded material or mowing debris.

How to plant a tree: delivered with bare roots, wrapped roots, or in pots

How to plant a tree

Trees delivered with bare root balls

For trees and bushes that are delivered with bare roots, the planting time to be observed for decidious trees or bushes (those that lose their leaves in winter) is between mid-October and mid-March in the northern hemisphere. For evergreen trees, i.e. those that do not lose their leaves in winter, the planting period is from the beginning of November to the beginning of April in the northern hemisphere. Not to forget, definitely not to plant in frost.

It should be borne in mind that when storing in the expectation of more favorable planting conditions, the roots must be covered with soft soil or slightly moist soil and protected from frost.

Before planting, any damaged roots should be removed. Then soak them in mud. Make a sufficiently large hole and cover the roots with good soil or potting soil. Finally, compact the soil slightly and form a ring of a few centimeters around the foot to better hold the water in. Be careful not to bury the boundary between the roots and the stem. Then water abundantly.

It should be noted that for trees that are sufficiently developed, a support made of one or more wooden stakes and tie wires should be provided for fastening.

Trees delivered with wrapped root ball clumps

For trees that are delivered with wrapped root balls, the planting time is between November and February, before the sap is extracted. However, avoid planting in severe frost. This delivery method is usually intended for trees or shrubs that are already quite well developed. They are uprooted through a process that consists of cutting off the soil around the root ball and then wrapping it with cloth and a metal mesh. This prevents the root ball from breaking. If it becomes necessary to wait for planting, it is necessary to protect the trees from frost while maintaining the moisture of the root ball through light watering.

When planting, a hole should be provided deeper and wider than the root ball. A layer of compost or manure must be deposited on the ground and covered with potting soil.

It is important in the steps for how to plant the tree that you ensure that the root ‘clump’ is moist, it may have to be watered. In no case should the roots rise above the ground, and the neck, the starting point of the roots, should not be buried. Then the net and the fabric must be carefully removed to avoid breaking the root ball. Finally, it is necessary to cover with potting soil, tamp it and use the earth to form a circle a few centimeters high around the lump. Then you should water generously.

Note that the trees that are delivered in clumps’ have a minimum height of 1.50 m; For this reason, it is necessary to provide a support, that is, one or more wooden pegs, as well as tree fastenings to hold them in place.

Trees delivered in pots

Most trees and shrubs come in pots (usually made of plastic) – this has several advantages. First, plants grown in pots do not suffer the trauma of abrupt uprooting of their natural habitat, and because of this , they are robust. On the other hand, they are more traffic-friendly and adapt well to changing geographical locations. After all, taking into account the reasons mentioned, they can be planted almost all year round , with the exception of frost and hot weather.

Planting requires good soil and compost. Be careful, the compost must be at the bottom of the planting hole and must be covered with a layer of potting soil to avoid direct contact with the roots. It is necessary to cover the root ball well and tamp it lightly to form a ring of soil around the foot to favor rainwater retention or irrigation. Finally, plan for generous watering.

Choosing the location

Before planting, it is important to consider the size of the object to be planted when fully grown. It is therefore necessary to provide sufficient distance from other existing trees or shrubs or from those whose construction is planned. Also, remember to keep it away from buildings, electrical lines, or property lines.
Don’t forget that a little tree can grow very tall. Avoid planting species that will gain height over time near houses, otherwise you will have to learn How to cut down a tree correctly.

How to plant a tree: Planting steps

How to plant a tree

Not too high, not too low

After the preparation of the planting hole and the possible soil improvement, the trees can be planted. The trunk of the tree is wrapped in jute. The tree is then lifted around the root and trunk with a strap or with a root ball hook. The tree is placed in the planting hole in such a way that the top of the root ball is approx. 5 to 10 cm above the surface of the soil. The planting hole will still sag, especially with heavy trees. The tree sags with it and will eventually stand lower than when it was planted.

It is better to plant the tree too high than too deep. If trees are planted too deeply, there is a possibility of lack of oxygen, which can lead to root rot and death. Since the roots of a tree grow to just below the surface of the soil, planting too high is also undesirable. Trees that are planted too high dry out quickly, as part of the roots ultimately protrude above the top of the ground. Also, piling up the ball with soil can lead to dehydration, as the water runs off to the outside during watering.

How to plant a tree: Fill the planting hole in 3 steps

If the tree is in the planting hole, sufficient ventilation must first be provided – especially in very hard soils and soils with a lot of organic material such as bog soils. This ventilation is necessary to provide the roots with oxygen. When this ventilation is ensured, the planting hole can be filled.

  1. First a third of the planting hole is filled and the earth is trampled. Make sure that no organic materials such as turf get into the planting hole, as these materials deprive the tree of oxygen.
  2. The planting hole is then filled to three quarters and the wire must be loosened around the top of the root ball. If a wire is too tight against the trunk, there is a risk that the tree will be pinched at that point as it grows in thickness.
  3. Then the planting hole can be completely filled and the soil can be trampled again. Never remove the wire from the top of the root ball before placing the tree in the planting hole. Otherwise, there is a risk that the root ball will fall apart.

Protection of the tree trunk

In the case of varieties with a thin and smooth bark that are in a sunny spot, protection of the trunk is often necessary in the first phase after planting. Beech, linden, hornbeam, Japanese pagoda trees and common maples are particularly sensitive to sunburn, which means that the bark becomes detached from the trunk. To prevent this, the knot-free part of the trunk is wrapped in a reed mat after planting. After a few years, the reeds will have rotted away and the tree will have built up enough resistance to sunburn. In addition, the crown has become wider and gives the trunk more shade.T

How to plant a tree: method for fruit trees

The best time to plant bare-root fruit trees is late in autumn or early in spring – that is, either November or March. Autumn planting is to be given preference for almost all types of fruit, as long as it is still possible according to the weather and game browsing can easily be avoided.

Only fruits that are sensitive to wind frost, such as peaches, nectarines, almonds, chestnuts and walnuts, are best planted early in spring. If you want to plant these types of fruit in autumn for whatever reason, you should enclose the trunk and the main branches with a windbreak (straw, reeds, jute, synthetic fabric, etc.) We also plant apricot trees as much as possible in autumn – preferably after the first ripening, when the wood is well matured.

On very heavy, wet soils and in extremely windy, frosty locations, it is advisable not to plant until spring. However, it must be planted before the start of the vegetation period, as long as the trees are still “blind”, ie not yet in sap.

If you collect the trees from the nursery, you should protect the roots from sun, draft, wind and frost during transport. If you receive the trees sent, you should soon remove the packaging and put the trees in the water overnight.

The stronger a fruit tree is and the later it is planted after clearing, the more important it is to water it before planting. That means: If a fruit tree is cleared in autumn and only planted in spring, watering it up to the first branch always makes it easier to grow. If you don’t plant the following day, you can put the trees in water for up to a week, but then only the roots. The trees should be felled again for a longer period of time. Pouring after planting cannot replace a previous bath and serves to achieve a good soil-root closure.

Immediately before planting, all injured roots must be cut away and the main roots trimmed until the cut is white.

Tip: Cut as any damaged roots, but cutting away as few healthy roots as possible. The planting hole should be dug so large that all the roots have enough space to spread out, if the soil is solid, twice as large as the root mass. If the soil is of poor quality or has a fruit tree already stood there, it is advisable to put some garden soil or very ripe compost in the planting hole and mix it with the “grown soil”.

The addition of fresh compost, manure or easily soluble commercial fertilizers to the root area should be avoided. It is better to sprinkle this on the surface of the planting disc after planting is complete. As a rule, the tree stake is hammered in before planting and the tree is set to the stake in such a way that it can develop straight and the crown can develop regularly.

The tree is placed in the planting hole, filled with fine, loose soil, shaken to settle, and lifted slightly, the soil pressed down and then watered. The wetter the soil is when planting, the more important it is to water it after planting! The grafting point must always protrude above the future soil level and should not be lower when planting than it was in the nursery. With the final clearing of the planting hole, one waits until the water has completely drained away and gently presses the earth down. Subsequent, light paddling with loose soil reduces dehydration and makes it easier to care for weeds later.

Plant pruning: If you plant bare-root trees, you should adjust the number of eyes of the above-ground shoots to the root mass, which has been reduced by clearing and root pruning.

The stronger the pruning, the stronger the shoot. However, excessive growth in the youth phase delays the onset of income. The more the shoots are shortened, the easier it is for the trees to grow because the reduced roots have less shoot substance to supply.

How to plant a tree

Basically, the plant pruning is based on the desired training system. Regardless of this, it is recommended:

  • Shorten apple and pear bush trees by approx. A third.
  • Shorten the plum, cherry, apricot and wild fruit trees by approx.
  • Cut back peach, nectarine and almond trees by more than 2/3.

Shorten each branch by half for all types of fruit.

If you get an unbranched tree, which is still often planted commercially for reasons of cost, you simply cut it off above the desired trunk height and form the crown with the upper eyes. Shoots that are too deep are broken off after they have sprouted.

The fewer fine roots there are and the more problems are to be expected, the stronger the pruning should be carried out to compensate for these errors. These errors can arise, for example, from:

  • a very long transport route or trees that have dried out during storage;
  • due to a very late planting date and plants that are already easily driven;
  • extremely strong young trees;
  • if the trees cannot be watered in the summer of the year of planting when it is dry or the surrounding area cannot be kept weed-free.

It is often customary to cut side branches diagonally — and without leaving stumps — over an outwardly protruding shoot in order to shape the crown (spread the cut with tree wax for protection). It is precisely the outermost shoot, which is so cared for, that often grows poorly and forms only a weak branch. It is better to shorten the side branches regardless of the direction of the shoots. To do this, you should check the tree in May to June (northern hemisphere), remove stumps and upright shoots and at the end leave a healthy, outward-looking shoot that corresponds to the desired direction.

During the growing season, check the young tree for disease and pest infestation and, if necessary, make life easier for it with beneficial insect-friendly pesticides, and water when it is dry.

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