Plant a Tree

Balled-and-burlapped trees

balled and burlapped treesTypically large (1”-3” caliper), grown in the ground in a nursery and dug, preserving a “root ball” of soil that is wrapped in burlap and secured in a wire cage. Often used by landscapers. B&B trees are typically planted when dormant so that they have time to adjust to new conditions once they’ve been planted.

Tools: Spade and/or shovel, gloves, wire cutters, soil knife or another sharp knife

Start out by measuring the diameter of the root ball – the easiest way to do this is to use your shovel and lay it flat across the root ball, keeping track of your measurement.

Cut and reserve the sod and dig a saucer- or ‘wok’-shaped hole at least 2-3 times the size of the root ball. Digging a hole with sloping sides will aid in root development.

Find the root collar, the location at the base of the trunk where the roots begin. This will determine the depth of the hole, since the root collar should be level with the soil once planted.

Using wire cutters, clip around the bottom of the basket and remove it, leaving half of the cage still intact around the top of the root ball. This will help hold it together while the tree is being transported into the hole. You may also remove the bottom portion of burlap at this time.

Roll the tree (or lift by the root ball – never lift by the trunk as this could break apart the root ball) into the center of the hole. Adjust as necessary, using buildings or other built structures as a guide to determine the straightness of the trunk.

Have someone hold the tree in the desired position, and begin to backfill the hole with dirt, tamping down slightly as you go to remove any air pockets. You should be able to replace all the dirt back into the hole.

Once the hole has been backfilled, form a berm around the edge of the hole using pieces of cut sod (grass-side down). This will help prevent erosion and will help the soil retain more moisture.

Don’t forget to water! Use a tree watering bag or, if using a hose, water your tree for at least an hour at a slow trickle to deeply soak the roots.

Container-grown trees

Trees in containers

Trees that are grown in individual containers (pots, root trapper bags, etc.). These trees develop very healthy root systems which allow them to adapt more quickly than B&B trees, making them appropriate for year-round planting.

Tools: Shovel/spade, gloves, sharp knife

Cut and reserve the sod and dig a saucer- or ‘wok’-shaped hole at least 2-3 times the size of the container.

Remove the tree from the container and inspect for any girdling roots or other problems. If the roots are pot-bound or very dense, use a sharp knife/blade to score the sides of the root ball. You can also use your hands to loosen the soil around the roots.

Lift the tree by the base of the trunk and place in the center of the hole, making sure that the root collar is level with the soil line. Use a nearby building to align the tree and ensure that the trunk is straight.

Begin to backfill the hole, tamping down the soil as you go to secure the tree in place and eliminate any air pockets. Continue until all the soil is back in the hole.

Create a berm using cut sod pieces (grass-side down) around the perimeter of the hole.

Water your tree for at least an hour at a slow trickle to deeply soak the roots.

Bareroot trees

Bareroot trees are similar to B&B trees, except they are transported from the nursery without any soil – therefore it’s critical that the roots are kept moist until the tree is planted.

Dig a hole large enough to accommodate the root system and follow the steps above to plant. Make sure to fill all crevices when backfilling to avoid air pockets that will dry out the roots.