#1. Receiving your Tree
- Immediately upon receiving a bare root tree, remove it from its box to make sure the roots are still moist. Roots that seem at all dry need to be soaked in a bucket of water for about eight hours.
- One way to keep roots damp is to repack them in moist material, such as the packing material in which they arrived. Otherwise, use moist autumn leaves, wood chips, or even shredded newspaper..
- Keep your tree cool (ideally between 30° and 40°F) to prevent the tree from breaking its dormancy. After wrapping the roots in packing material and plastic to hold in moisture, put the plant in a cool place away from sun. Another way to hold a tree in good condition before planting is to heel it in. On the cooler side of your house, dig a shallow hole that is just deep enough for the roots and temporarily plant the tree there.
- Just before planting time, inspect a tree’s roots, removing any that are dead, diseased, or broken. Cleanly cutting frayed ends reduces the surface area of wounds, so that healing is quicker and risk of root disease is reduced. Keep the roots from drying out when taking a tree to its planting site by keeping it wrapped in moist cloth or newspaper.
#2. Digging a Hole
- Before digging a planting hole, scoop up a handful of dirt and squeeze it. If it’s ready for digging, the soil will be just moist enough to crumble readily. If the soil is too wet, wait for it to become drier. Digging soil that is too wet, especially one that is high in clay, ruins its crumbly structure. If it’s too dry, water it.
- Dig a hole only two to three times the diameter of the root spread.
- Make sure that the hole is tapered from ground level at the edges to full depth at the center, like a wide, shallow cone. For easy root penetration, rough up the inside of the hole by poking it with a shovel and giving it a few twists.
- If lime or sulfur is needed to change the pH of the soil, thoroughly mix it into the bottom of the planting hole. Both of these materials move slowly through soil and take a long time to work their way down to the roots.
- Do not mix fertilizer into the planting hole, since it could burn new roots. Also, do not add peat moss, compost, or other organic materials.
#3. Planting and Watering
- Shovel enough loose soil back into the planting hole to create a mound on which to set the tree. The top of the root ball should stand slightly higher in the soil, to allow for settling.
- Backfill the hole. Slightly tamp down the plant periodically to settle the soil, and adjust the positioning of the tree as necessary. When you have finished backfilling, build up a slight ridge of soil around the outer edge of the planting hole to help contain water. Make sure your tree is standing straight.
- Spread 3" of wood chips or straw over the bare ground to within a few inches of the trunk. Keep mulch away from the trunk to prevent the trunk from rotting. This insulating blanket will keep roots of the trees warm and growing and also prevent freezing and thawing of soil. It will also keep the roots of the trees cool and moist through summer.
- Stake trees that stand over 3' tall or in very windy areas for at least a year until their roots grab firm hold of the soil. Tie the trunk to one or two stakes set beside the tree, using some soft material or padded wire. Allow for some movement of the trunk.
- Water your new tree. Slowly and thoroughly soak the ground and allow the water to seep in. Do this two times.
- Throughout its first growing season, diligently maintain a weekly watering schedule. One gallon per week per square-foot-spread of the roots.
- Keep your circle of mulch weed-free for at least a few years, adding more mulch as needed.
- With proper planting and care, new buds will soon push out and your tree will start its journey!