How to Plant a Tree

When rains blow, roots grow.  The fall season is a good time to plant in the Pacific Northwest.  When a tree is entering dormancy and rains provide sufficient moisture, conditions are right for planting.  Transplanting in the middle of the summer is difficult because the recently disturbed roots will have a bigger job absorbing enough water and nutrients for all the leaves, as well as the rest of the plant.  Following are some simple steps showing how to put a tree in the ground.  This is a star magnolia that our kid’s class planted at the nursery last April on Earth Day.

1.  Dig a hole.  Make it as deep as the container the plant came in, but extra wide for root growth.


2.  Mix in compost.  Organic amendments will enrich the soil and help retain water and air around the root ball.

Adding compost

3.  Remove plant from container and loosen roots.  Cut off or uncurl any that are starting to circle the trunk (girdling) and break up any thick mats.

Loosen root ball

4.  Place the plant in the ground at the same level it was growing in the container.  Don’t cover the base of the trunk with soil, this could lead to rot.  Orient the tree in the best position for the site and make sure it’s upright.

Place in hole

5.  Press soil around root ball and water well.

Water well

6.  Add a three to four inch layer of mulch to help soil retain moisture, suppress weeds and protect from cold in the winter.  Keep the mulch a few inches away from base of the trunk.  Mulch can be compost, bark, shredded leaves, straw, etc…

Now that the tree is in the ground, don’t forget it needs consistent moisture the first year while it’s getting established.  Too much or too little water will cause problems. Fertilize in the spring when new growth begins and continue to add mulch each year.

Add mulch

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