For those folks who live in growing zones 6, 7 and 8, October, November and early December is a good time to plant your trees or shrubs because roots become active during winter months in storing nutrient reserves for the next season. Also water requirements are generally much less during winter months. However in sandy soil situations which do not hold moisture as well as other soil types, the addition of a water-retentive product will help reduce short term drought stress.
First you need to select a tree or shrub that fits the site you desire to plant in. Read the information available on the tree or shrub. For example: you wouldn't plant a birch tree in an area that is usually dry, (birches prefer a moist soil.) How tall and wide will the tree be at maturity? It is very sad to see a beautiful tree cut down only because it has become too big for the site. Are there overhead wires above? This is a common problem, which is easy to avoid by choosing trees that don't grow tall. Does the tree or shrub need a protected site? You shouldn't plant a dogwood or rhododendron in a windy open area. If you choose the proper tree for the conditions it will live in you won't have to struggle to keep it alive and healthy.
Experts used to advise you dig the hole deeper and wider than the root ball. The advice now is to only dig the hole as deep as the root ball but at least two times wider. This keeps the tree or shrub from sinking as the soil settles whileallowing the feeder roots to grow out into the looser and generally more fertile top-soil.
Soil amendments (direct to the planting hole) are also discouraged since most tree roots have a natural spreading tendency and need to acclimate to indigenous soils as quickly as possible. Or, if you dig this nice wonderful 'bowl' newly growing roots tend to stay right there, circling around and around, not venturing out into the soil that isn't so great. And if your soil is hard clay you will need to dig up a larger area than two times larger than the root ball.
It is very helpful to get a wheelbarrow, garden cart or even a tarp to hold the soil you are going to dig up. After you have dug the hole use your shovel or a fork to loosed the soil around the hole. This helps open up the compacted soil for the roots to grow into.
Place your tree or shrub into the hole. Add some soil to support the tree while you check all the way around to make sure it is standing up straight and is facing the direction you desire. The top of the root ball, (where the trunk widens and roots flare out), should be at or above the soil level. If the root ball is too low you can possibly add soil to the bottom of the hole with your shovel, moving the root ball from side to side to get soil underneath. If it is too high you will need to remove the tree and dig deeper. Now is the time to fix anything not proper, not after the hole is refilled with soil.
If the root ball has burlap or a wire cage remove at least the top half being careful not to cause the ball to fall apart. Burlap under the ball will rot. Fill the hole in with soil halfway. Make any further adjustments. Water the soil to fill in any air pockets and help settle the soil. Fill in the remainder of the hole.
Water the soil thoroughly with a slow stream of water. You need a hose for this job or several buckets of water to adequately settle the soil.
Mulch the area around the tree with a few inches of mulch. Keep the mulch from touching the trunk. Moist mulch can encourage rot, pests or disease. Water your newly planted tree or shrub if rainfall does not provide adequate moisture up until the ground freezes.
If soils are severely compacted (from new home construction, for example) now is a good time to add our Shrubs Alive. Apply some six inches from the outer perimeter of the planting hole. This will aid in recreating the desired soil texture necessary for your trees future growth.
Once your tree is properly positioned, it may need support. Tree Supports help keep young trees from being rocked by strong winds, which damage developing roots. Tree Supports provide integrated support to hold young trees stable but allow for enough "give" for normal sway. Our patented Tree Support is especially designed to accommodate this.
Small trunks will need protection from rodent damage and sunscald. On-Gard! offer protection to tender young bark from animals as well as from sunscald (caused by Winter sun reflected off of snow).
Tree Guards are easy to apply and should be removed in Summer months.
If you choose the right tree or shrub for your site and plant it properly you can plan on enjoying it for many years to come.
By Diane Franklin