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How to Plant a Tree so it Lives!

Many people have asked this question, so here's my best explanation!
Always call Digger's Hotline before you begin so you don't hit any wires, pipes, and so on when digging!

Digging the Hole

It's very important to prepare the hole so your tree will get a good start. First, determine the kind of soil you will be planting in. Is it sandy? Is it full of clay? Is it black dirt? If the soil is sandy, the tree will have good drainage, but will need to be watered more frequently at the start of its life. Also, black dirt will need to be added around the root ball, replacing some of the sandy soil making it a better environment for your new tree. If you have a lot of clay in your soil, the best preparation will be to dig your hole a bit deeper and fill in the bottom with good topsoil. Also, black dirt or topsoil will need to be added to place around the root ball. If your soil is in good shape, you are in luck! All you have to do is dig the hole! When digging the hole, you want to dig a hole at least the diameter of the root ball o the container that your tree is in. Always measure the depth to make sure that the dirt level once the tree is in the hole is level with the terrain. It's hard on the tree to keep pulling it out of the hole if it's not deep enough. NEVER put dirt up the bark of the tree. Always put it level with the graft or where the dirt level is on the tree when you bought it. Putting a tree in too deep will eventually kill it. Also, putting dirt up too far will eventually rot the bark and kill the tree. Remove the container that it comes in before planting the tree. If the tree is rapped in burlap DO NOT remove the burlap, it will deteriorate over time. You will however need to cut the burlap carefully off the top of the root ball. If not removed, this will act like a wick and not allow water to saturate the ground equally around the base of the tree. If wrapped in wire, this WILL need to STAY on as not to disturb the roots. DO NOT break up the root ball, as this will kill any fine roots and put more stress on your tree.

Filling the Hole

Always backfill with good soil. Either black dirt or top soil would be good. If you think your soil is O.K. but you need just a little more dirt, you could mix some topsoil with what you already have. There is NO need to mix manure or fertilizer. Tap down the soil around the tree and thoroughly saturate the ground around the tree. Setting the hose next to the tree dripping for about twenty minutes usually does the trick.


As a new planting, trees need to be watered once a week with about two (2) inches if either rain water or hose water until the tree is dormant late in fall of it's first year. This means if you placed a cup next to the tree, when that cup has two inches of rain water in it, that's enough. The following year, you will only need to water during dry spells. Over watering can kill a tree, also not watering will kill it too.


It's better not to prune a young tree because they need the food manufactured by the leaves to help with toot growth. Only prune dead or broken branches.


These are to be used only if necessary. They are hard to mow around and create tripping hazards, which shake the tree. If stakes are needed, place the support ties 6" above the point where the top can stand on it's own. Ties should be made of webbed strapping or something flexible as to not rub into the bark of the tree. Using two ties also would help the tree from rubbing. Always allow some slack for the top to sway. Be careful when driving your stakes in, so you don't damage the roots. Only keep a tree staked for one or two years.


Mulch is very helpful for a young tree. It keeps moisture in, holds down competing weeds and grass, prevents soil cracking, and keeps your lawnmower away from the trunk. No mulch should touch the tree trunk. You need to only pile on one to three inches of mulch. More will rot the bark.

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