Arbor Day tree planting advice

CHAMPAIGN—National Arbor Day is just around the corner (April 29). Everyone grab a shovel and get ready to plant a tree.

Before planting a tree, make sure you know how to do it correctly, advises the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). How a tree is planted, and initially maintained, makes all the difference in the world. Too many people are content to simply plant a tree, but don’t ensure that the tree has the chance to go on to live for many years.

Tree planting tips

There are a few simple tips to remember when planting your tree this spring:

Prepare the perfect hole for planting.

Dig the hole two to three times the width of the root ball. Do NOT dig deeper than root ball depth. Make the sides of the hole slant gradually outward.

For bareroot trees, neatly cut away any broken or damaged roots. Soak the roots for a few hours prior to planting to allow them to absorb water.

Container-grown trees should have the plastic or metal containers completely removed. Carefully cut through any circling roots. Remove the top half of pressed peat/paper containers.

Balled and Burlapped (“B&B”) trees should have all of the ropes cut. Pull the burlap at least one-third of the way down; slit remaining burlap to encourage root growth. If in a wire basket, cut away the top of the basket.

Planting the tree

Gently place the tree in the hole. Partially backfill with the soil from the hole, water to settle the soil, then finish back-filling the hole. Tamp the soil gently, but do not step on the root ball.

A few pointers

While you may have finished planting, Arbor Day aficionados should remember these final touches:

Remove tags and labels.

Do not stake unless the tree has a large crown, or if the planting is situated on a site where wind or people may push the tree over. Stake for a maximum of one year.

Prune only the damaged branches.

Soak the soil well, making sure no air pockets form between roots. Wait until next year to fertilize.

Spread two to three inches of mulch over the planting area, but do not place it up against the trunk.

Be sure the root ball has plenty of water throughout the year.

Anyone with questions regarding choosing the right tree or proper planting and maintenance is advised to contact an ISA Certified Arborist. According to a survey of U.S. consumers, eight out of 10 believe it is important to hire ISA Certified Arborists. ISA Certified Arborists have completed extensive and rigorous testing to ensure their knowledge on the latest techniques in tree care, and are required to pursue continuing education units to remain certified.

From the April 27-May 3, 2005, issue

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