Below are step by step instructions on how to plant a tree like a pro and ensure that your tree gets off to a good start.
1. Choosing the Right Timing: The best time to plant a tree in Portland is from when the rain starts to a month before it stops and not during any cold snaps. More or less this is from October 15 to April 15th. If you need to plant a tree outside of this season that is ok, just realize that the tree will need regular watering until the rains begin again and try to avoid any particularly hot weather.
2. Choosing a Tree: choosing the right tree for the right area of your yard is the most difficult and time consuming part of planting a tree. You need to do your research. In some cases it may not be best to handle this step yourself. You need to consider: Light availability, mature size, growth rate, drainage, disease concerns, maintenance costs, clean up, city restrictions and of course aesthetics. You should try to avoid planting anything other than ornamental trees within 10’ of your home.
Probe your local nursery staff of information about tree you are considering. It also might be a good idea to have an arborist out for recommendation on what tree might work well in your space. An arborist will know the most about the characteristic or different trees and their maintenance and disease concerns specific to your location. Most arborists provide this service for a small fee ($50-$100). Spending a little money of this now could really save you in the long run if you plan to stay in the house.
3. Purchasing A Healthy Specimen: When purchasing a tree it is important to choose a healthy tree with good structure. It amazes me sometimes how many trees that should be in the burn pile end up for sale at retail nurseries. Here is a list of things to look for:
1. Unless your tree is a multi-stemmed your tree should have a single trunk that leads straightthe middle of the tree to the top of the tree. It is important that this single trunk be intact all the way to the tip top of the tree.
2. Your tree should not have any scars or damage to the trunk.
3. Your tree should not have any indication of bugs or other infestations.
4. Look at the roots of the tree. The larger roots should not swirl around the container. This is a sign the tree has been in that size pot too long. Also they should appear healthy will no signs of rot. This will require you get your hands dirty.
5. Stand back take a look at the tree from far away. Ask yourself: Is the tree appealing in its shape? Are the branches evenly spaced? Is the shape consistent with the variety? This is a lot easier to do when the leaves are off the tree, but work with your situation the best you can.
6. Choose a larger tree. If you are looking at a stock of trees and there are several that all seem like they are in good condition choose the large one. Large trees handle the stress of transplant better and root in more quickly. They are also lest prone to damage and vandalism. We recommend a 2” caliper tree in most situations.
It is a good idea even if you are having your tree delivered to go to the nursery and pick it out by hand as it most likely will be a permanent part of your landscaping.
4. Plating the Tree: Take the tree out of the container and score the sides of the root wad cutting trough the outer layer of roots 1-2” with the side of your shovel. Do the same thing to the bottom of the root wad in an X pattern. Dig your fingers into the root wade and loosen the outer layer of roots.
Measure the height from the bottom of the root wad to the top of the soil. Dig a whole this deep and twice as wide as the container the tree came in. You do not want to put more than a dusting of new soil over the top of the root wad. Any deeper can cause rot at the base of the tree. A wide hole helps the roots get established in less compacted soil. If your soil is clay you will want to make the hole narrower to stop water from collecting at the bottom of the hole (a couple of inches wider than the container). Also if the tree is in a high traffic area you may want to make the hole narrower so the tree can stand up on its own without being staked. Staking creates a long list of problems for developing trees. A tree should be able to hold itself up. While a wider hole is preferred you will need to do what is needed for your specific circumstances.
Put the tree in the hole lightly compact the soil around the tree. Do Not amend the soil. If you are adding soil, mix your own soil with regular top soil. Amended soil can cause the roots to want to stay in the nutrient rich area instead of rooting out and stabilizing the tree. Also if you had a tree removed do not plant the tree in the stump grindings. You will have to remove the stumps grinds and replace that soil with top soil.
I personally like to create a little raised ring around the tree at the outer edges of the disturbed area. What this does is stop water from running over the ground and away from the roots and traps it so it leaches into the soil and down to the roots.
Remove all tags, tape, bracing, and any other stuff that is not a natural part of the tree and enjoy your new tree.
A blog post on tree planting after care instructions coming soon.