This is a picture of a tree. How to Plant a Tree
By Greg Giesy, Distinct Possibilities Landscapes

• Containerized tree: remove the tree from the container.

• Balled and burlapped tree (B&B): cut the twine and pull the burlap away from the top half of the root ball.

• Find the trunk flare – this is where the main roots emerge from the trunk. Remove excess soil from the top of the root ball until you find the first root at the trunk flare.

• Measure the root ball’s height - from the trunk flare to the bottom of the root ball.

• Dig a hole 2” shallower than that measurement.

• The hole’s width needs to be 2 to 5 times the diameter of the root ball – WIDE, not deep!

• Put the tree in the hole.

• Circling/Girdling roots -- cut them or gently pull them out away from the tree. If they circle the whole root ball, cut them in at least 4 places, N,S,E,W.

• Root bound tree -- (from a container) -- slice vertically, top to bottom, 1-2 inches deep, N,S,E,W.

• Plumb the tree. Check to make sure it’s vertical by checking from two sides that are 90 degrees from each other. Use a house edge as a visual reference.

• Fill the hole. Use native soil; don’t add peat moss or other organic matter.

• Flood with water. Water the soil in as you go, to eliminate air pockets.

• Add mycorrhizal fungi spore product to soil once hole is half-filled. These beneficial fungi help the roots absorb water and nutrients.

• Don’t add fertilizer the first year. Fertilize with an organic or time release complete fertilizer (10-6-4) in spring every 3-4 years after planting.

• Stake the tree only if necessary to get it to settle plumb. Remove the stakes after the first year. Drive two stakes opposite each other with the trunk in the center. Attach flexible ties lower than half way up the tree and make them loose enough so that the tree can sway some in the wind. This strengthens the trunk.

• Mulch the planting area with 2” to 4” of mulch. Don’t put mulch against the trunk – this will cause decay.

• Water once a week. Water slowly, to get water down deep. Don’t water a little bit each day – this encourages surface rooting and makes it easier for the tree to dry out in hot weather. Stick your fingers a few inches down to see if the soil is moist. If so, don’t add more water yet.

• Prune only dead or damaged branches at planting time. Wait at least a full season before doing any structural or corrective pruning.