Planting a new treeGetting a new tree to add to your landscape is an exciting change. Trees add power, beauty, and diversity to an otherwise average yard space. If you’ve purchased a larger tree instead of a sapling, it’ll take extensive preparation to get ready for installation day because trees can suffer from transplant shock when they are moved from the tree farm or nursery to your home.

During transplant shock, some of the roots—especially roots that were damaged when removing the tree from its place—will die instead of becoming established. If too many roots die in this manner, the tree will struggle to survive in its new home.

Proper soil, hole, and equipment preparation are what will help you to reduce transplant shock. The first year after transplant is always the hardest for the tree, so starting off right increases the chances that your new tree will become beautiful and healthy under your care.

Soil Preparation

There will be subtle differences between the soil that currently surrounds the roots of your new tree and the soil in your yard. Often, the soil in the root ball of a transplanted tree is loose and nutrient dense because most landscape trees are raised on farms with fertilized soil and plenty of mulch.

Your soil might be sandy, hard, or clay-like in comparison.
If the differences in soil type are too great, the roots of the tree will have a hard time pushing through the “barrier” of solid soil to establish themselves in a new location. Packed, hard soil is not suitable for planting.Instead, choose a planting location where the soil is moist, rich, and workable. You might have to work this soil yourself for many days before planting to get it nice and loose for the benefit of your new tree.

Another issue to consider is whether your soil has good drainage. When you plant a tree, you dig a hole to set it in the ground. If the soil does not drain well, this hole can act like a bowl of water. Instead of the roots absorbing water and spreading beyond the perimeter of the hole, they can rot in the ground.

If you’re worried about drainage, have a landscape company test your soil. If it has a high clay content or lies in a low point of the overall topography of the area, you might need to install a drainage system or add organic matter and sand to the soil. Changing your soil composition can take time, so make sure you get a test done several weeks before you plan on planting.

Hole Size

You might think it’s a simple matter to plant a tree. You dig a hole and place the roots in the hole. You cover the hole with soil, and with a little water and sunlight, your tree grows healthy and strong. This is not exactly the case. Hole size and depth make a big difference on whether or not your tree will succeed during the first year.

The most common mistake is digging the hole too deep. Once you set the tree in, you do need to cover the root ball with a layer of soil, but the tree should not be so deep in a hole that the soil covers any part of the trunk.

Measure the root ball before you dig and aim to have the tree sit just a few inches below ground level to allow for mulch, but keep dirt and mulch away from the trunk. These are too moisture rich and can actually cause the bark to rot away. Since the bark contains the phloem that transports food from the leaves to the roots, rotting bark at the trunk bases cuts the roots off from these vital nutrients.

Mulch and Water

You should also be prepared with mulch and water. Mulch helps to keep the soil moist, which is especially helpful if you have hot summers. Transplanted trees need water, and if the roots aren’t established, the mulch helps to keep water in the root ball so the existing roots can get as much as possible. Mulch also adds nutrients to the soil.

The most successful transplanted trees get just the right amount of water. Watering with a hose or buckets every few days is not enough. Much of this water runs off or evaporated before the tree can access it.

Instead, it’s best to use a slow drip soaker hose in a spiral pattern around the base of the tree. The water is released slowly and soaks into the soil without drenching the roots. If you do not have a drip hose, use a five-gallon bucket with small holes drilled at the bottom and place it near the base of the tree. Drip systems prevent overwatering, and they also keep the soil moist enough outside the perimeter of the hole to encourage root development.

For more information about preparing for your new tree contact us at Smitty’s Tree Service Inc.