How to Plant Young Trees the Right Way
October 18, 2016
Did you know fall in Texas is the best time to plant new trees and transplant more established ones? The cooler temperatures and additional rainfall through fall and winter give trees an easier time to establish roots prior to the onset of summer heat and drought, which is much tougher on our trees than our mild winters. This is why the Texas A&M Forest Service created Texas’ own Arbor Day the first Friday each November. If you plan on adding a new, young tree to the landscape, giving it the best start with good planting practices will help your tree delight generations to come.
How to Plant Young New Trees
You don’t have to start big when planting new trees. While trees planted young may not provide a grand display immediately, with proper care they will quickly be on their way to a long and beautiful life. Small trees actually have an easier time adjusting to their location and, though they'll spend some time working underground developing their roots, these small plantings will soon catch up to larger specimens.
The planting hole: Simply dig a hole as deep as the root ball, but twice as wide. The soil of the potted or burlapped tree should not be planted below your hole’s soil line. Be sure to remove all twine, wire, plastic and burlap from around the tree or it could lead to girdled roots.
As it is not possible to amend all the soil that the tree’s roots will eventually grow into, it's best to plant the tree and backfill the planting hole with native soil. Most of us are familiar with the heavy clay soils in the area, which lack diversity and compact easily. Using liquids like root stimulator, an organic solution made from various plant extracts, helps develop the root system, allowing it to fork and spread throughout the soil. Applying this solution monthly will get the best results and help to penetrate compacted soils and encourage microbial activity.
Should you fertilize your new tree?
Because new trees need to focus energy underground, into their roots, newly planted trees do not need to be fertilized during the first year. In fact, fertilizing promotes leaf growth before the roots are ready to support it, creating a stressful situation for the tree.
My tree is planted. Now what?
The first task after planting is to add a layer of mulch out to the drip line of the leaves. Mulch will help insulate roots through winter and help to retain water, so you water less. Be careful to leave the root flare exposed. This is the area at the base of the tree where the woody roots begin. Do not allow mulch or soil to pile up around the base of the tree.
More important than any product or amendment is proper watering. Remember that a sprinkler system is not sufficient to water a newly planted tree. Because you want those roots to spread deeply and anchor your new plant, you must soak not only the rootball, but all of the surrounding soil to get the root system to expand. Soaker hoses are ideal for deep watering or you can simply drop your hose in the area and let it to run slowly for 15 minutes or more to thoroughly soak the area. If you do this on the same day that the sprinkler already ran, the top of the soil should be moist and will allow for better penetration. Soaking weekly (more often in summer) will get your tree into the best possible shape for longevity.
Remember, for long-lived, healthy, beautiful trees, planting them the right way is the best way to give them a great start!