Plant a Tree the Right Way…on Arbor Day or any Day!

Plant a Tree the Right Way…on Arbor Day or any Day!

Every year Arbor Day is celebrated the last Friday in April and we are encouraged to plant trees. With the forecast of a warmer, drier climate, the successful establishment of trees to cool the microclimate has become an imperative. Taking steps to properly plant a tree will ensure that your tree becomes an asset to the location, not a liability.

1.         Site evaluation

  • Is this the right tree for this location? Consider mature height, width and root zone in relation to buildings, awnings, walls, sidewalks, curbing, asphalt, signage, etc. If it will need to be pruned to fit the space, choose a variety of tree that is smaller at maturity.

2.         Arizona 811 (formerly Blue Stake)

3.         Planting hole preparation

  • Planting too deep is the number one reason trees struggle or fail
  • Dig the depth of the hole 10% more shallow than root ball height
  • Dig the hole 2 times the root ball width, wider at the top with sloping sides down to a narrower base
  • The sides of the planting hole should be rough, not smooth

4.         Pre-fill the planting hole with water to test percolation

  • Water should drain 1” per hour to verify good drainage
  • A pre-wet hole will prevent adjacent dry soil from wicking moisture from root ball, and cool the soil - highly recommended for hot weather planting

5.         Prepare tree

  • Expose the root flare – the area on the tree where root and trunk meet – it is often covered with mulch in a nursery container and this can lead to planting too deep
  • Remove the container – slide the tree carefully out of the container or cut it off
  • Trim any girdled roots with a sharp knife or pruners
  • Always remove the nursery stake

6.         Tree placement in planting hole

  • Gently slide the root ball into the hole with the root flare 10% above grade
  • For boxed trees, remove bottom of box, place in hole and remove box sides
  • It is better for the tree to sit a bit too high than too deep
  • Remember that mulch or decomposed granite will cover the top roots
  • Face the best side of the tree towards the primary viewing direction

7.         Backfill the planting hole

  • Use the soil that was removed from the hole as the backfill
  • Using mulch or amendments in backfill is not recommended
  • Gently add backfill without clumps, do not stomp on or compact the backfill
  • Use the shovel blade to slice through backfill in hole to release air
  • Use a slow stream of water to fill hole and settle any air pockets
  • More backfill can be added after water settling

8.         Mulch

  • Cover the backfill with mulch or granite
  • Do not cover the root flare with soil or mulch

9.         Tree well

  • If one is needed (only if high volume irrigation)
  • Make tree well same diameter as root ball so irrigation is directed into roots first before wetting adjacent backfill. Well can be expanded as roots grow outward
  • Do not change the grade or cover the root ball planting height while forming well

10.       Stake the tree – only if needed

  • If it stands on its own without bending, no stake needed
  • Two-stake system is recommended
  • Install stakes, outside of the root ball into undisturbed soil
  • Ties should be low along the trunk while still providing the needed support
  • Use material designed for staking such as arbor tape, loop the tie material so there is some movement of the trunk and room for the trunk to increase caliper without being restricted by the ties
  • Secure the ties to the stakes with a staple or nail so they cannot slide up and down
  • Cut or remove excess tie material, it should be neat