Peter Gerstenberger: Hi! I'm Peter Gerstenberger from Tree Care Industry Association. We're here today discussing tree care basics. Right now, we're covering the proper planting and post-planting care for young trees.
One of the first things we want to do before we even put the tree in the ground, is check to make sure that we have an appropriate species for the climatic zone or hardiness zone that we happen to live in. You can obtain a hardiness zone map at a reputable nursery or from maybe a county extension agency, or even by going online. Then we just want to make sure we match up the tree we want with the appropriate hardiness zone that we happen to be living in.
One of the first things I want you to do, when you get to that spot in your yard, where you want your new tree is to look up and look around. How tall is your tree going to get? Will that tree bump in to anything when it's fully grown? Be sure you have adequate room for crown spread. How long will it take for your tree to reach its full height?
Now, let's talk planting hole dimensions. Dig a hole that is at least one-and-a-half to two times the width of the root ball. This will allow new, emerging roots to grow into surrounding soil faster and easier. The biggest cause of young tree and shrub failure is planting them too deeply. The depth of the tree roots is critical in allowing them to respire and to get adequate moisture. We want to find the root collar. That's the point where the trunk starts to widen and differentiate into roots. We want to put the root collar right at soil grade or even slightly above it.
Sometimes, you need to take a little into the top of the root ball to find the collar as it may have been buried. Plastic containers must be removed to cut away completely. Even if the material of the pot will break down in the soil, it's going to hinder root growth. In all, but extreme cases, there is no need to add fertilizers, living organisms, spores, gels, organic products etcetera, into the backfill soil. Simply use the loosened soil that came out of the planting hole. If you're concerned about poor soil, you really need to address that on a larger scale before planting, or plant a tree that can thrive in those conditions.
At the end of the planting, remember to put not more than a quarter inch of soil over that root ball. As we plant, we're watering in everything. We avoid tamping down the soil. Watering air has to be able to infiltrate that soil and get to the newly developing roots. The roots must be able to push through that soil. We want to mulch around our new tree. We want to use 2-4 inches of some kind of organic mulch. The mulch serves several purposes, first, it keeps the nasty lawn mowers and string trimmers away from the new tree's fragile bark. Next, it helps retain soil moisture and reduce the need for watering. Finally, it helps to increase beneficial microbial activity in the soil. Shortly after that tree is established, we want to make sure we call in a professional to advise us on how we can establish a good scaffold limb structure on this new tree. So, that's it on the basics for planting and post-planting care for our young tree. Next, we want to move into some tips on how to prevent storm damage from our established trees or how to restore trees that have been damaged by previous storms.