Trees not only add to the aesthetic value of a property but provide clean breathable air, shade and much more! And it is a gift that can be enjoyed for generations to come. That’s why it’s important to plant trees properly, and protect and care for your trees with expertise. With some thought and planning, your trees can survive for decades.
Because our team has a lot of experience with trees, especially planting them, we’ve seen a lot of mistakes made by homeowners. A couple common ones: planting the root ball too deep because the hole was dug too deep, and not watering enough after planting.
I’ve compiled a list of steps to follow when planting your tree of choice to ensure it’s off to a healthy start.
You don’t need fancy materials or equipment to plant a tree – a shovel, tape measure and garden hose (plus a little strength and patience) is all you’ll need to be on your way to growing something great.
A good rule of thumb before digging on your property, whether the project is big or small, is to “call before you dig”. By calling Iowa One Call or filing a ticket online at least 48 hours prior to digging, they can notify the owners/operators of any underground facilities. Their personnel will mark the underground facilities to ensure that these are avoided when digging to eliminate damage. This is a law and applies to both professional contractors as well as homeowners.
Call Iowa One Call: dial 8-1-1
File a Ticket Online: www.iowaonecall.com/homeowners
Once Iowa One Call maps out the areas to avoid, you can determine the best place outside of those areas.
A common phrase in our industry is to plant “the right tree in the right place.” There are a lot of factors to consider when deciding what tree to plant. Fully grown, the tree needs to be able to fit into the space you choose – that includes the height and canopy spread, so make sure you know what your tree will grow to at maturity. Other considerations: make sure that it won’t grow into any power lines and is far enough away from your foundation, driveway, sidewalk and other items on your property so that it won’t become a threat down the road. Typically, staying 15 feet away from those structures is a safe bet.
Another thing to remember is the hardiness zone you live in. Most trees are beautiful, but many will not survive in the harsh Iowa winter. Iowa lands itself mostly in hardiness zone 5. Use this map to see suggested trees for our region.
If there is burlap on the root ball of the tree, cut it away to figure out what size hole to dig. This is the most important step in the process – find the root flare. The root flare is the part of the tree where the trunk widens and transitions into the root system. The root flare needs to be above ground. If not, the tree is in danger to get girdling roots. Rather than growing out, girdling roots simply grow around the base. Sometimes the root flare is not exposed when you pick it up from our Garden Center, so take the time to find it. You might need to rough up the roots if the tree was purchased with a root ball.
Measure the diameter of the tree’s root ball. Once the depth and height of the tree has been determined, you are ready to dig a hole that will fit your tree’s root ball. Save the soil that you dig out on a plastic tarp, so you can easily use this soil to back fill once the tree has been placed inside.
Once the wire cage and burlap have been completely removed, carefully place the root system into the hole at the correct depth and back fill with the soil. It is important to use the soil from digging the hole rather than topsoil. Although nutritious, top soil could cause girdling roots disrupting the natural growth of the tree.
Congratulations – you have a newly planted tree! But in order to help it grow, water the tree immediately after planting. Your tree will be thirstiest for the first two years because it is working to establish its root system. But just like too little water is damaging, so is too much water! No magic number exists for how much to water, but the soil should be consistently moist.
Apply mulch around the base of the tree. Did you know grass is the biggest competitor of the tree for nitrogen? Mulch will discourage the turf away from the base which is ultimately better for the tree’s health. Beyond that mulch retains moisture and returns nutrients back to the ground when it biodegrades. We have several types of mulch available for you to choose from.
If you don’t feel confident about planting trees on your property, let us do it for you. Wright Outdoor Solutions offers complete tree care and employs International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Board Certified Arborists. From selecting the correct tree to planting and everything in between, we can help you through the process.