Skip to content

Planning for a planting project

Are you ready to plant a tree?

 

Trees are a great addition to any landscape. They raise property values, decrease respiratory diseases, lower cooling bills, reduce stormwater runoff, provide wildlife food and habitat, etc.

There are several variables to consider before even breaking ground. 

Step 1
Choose the Right Tree
Plant a tree in a place where it has room to grow to maturity. Consider the distance it will be from other trees, built structures, and sidewalks. Always consider the mature size of the tree and be aware of above or below-ground utility lines.
Step 1
Step 2
Choose a Suitable Location
Planting a tree wherever you find pleasing may not be the best place. Choose a location that will allow for adequate drainage to prevent the rotting of the roots. Also consider the type of soil, the amount of sunlight the location provides, and the size of the space. Be sure to account for tree and root growth. If you plant too close to your home, it could damage the foundation.
Step 2
Step 3
Choose the Right Time to Plant
According to Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M & Auburn University) -- The best times to plant in Alabama, especially for balled and burlapped or bare-root trees, are fall and winter. Planting in fall or early winter reduces planting stress and water needs compared to planting in warmer seasons.
Step 3
Step 4
Contact 811 / Locate Utilities

The last thing you want to do when planting a tree is accidentally digging into an underground utility.

Protect yourself and underground utilities -- Contact 811 before you do any digging to have your local providers come out to locate and mark any utilities on your property.

Step 4
Step 5
Time to Dig

If there are utility lines in the area, be sure to use hand tools when within 18" of the utility marks (paint and/or flags), and dig carefully.

The hole should only be dug as deep as the root ball. This might be shallower than it appears in the container. To find the proper depth, locate the root flare (the area where the trunk tapers out to meet the lateral roots). You may need to brush off excess soil from the top of the root ball to find the root flare.

Step 5
Step 6
Place & Straighten Tree
Pick the tree up by its root mass and place it in the center of the hole. Walk around the tree to check that it looks straight from all angles. Once everything looks good, it's time to fill the hole.
Step 6
Step 7
Fill the Hole

Replace the soil you dug out of the hole a little at a time, alternating with water to help fill in any air pockets. Don’t pack the soil down. Let it settle with the water. Do not add any compost or fertilizer to the hole. Use only what you dug out. If there are large chunks of soil, it’s best to keep them intact.

Be sure to water thoroughly to soak the planting hole.

After the water soaks in a bit, add a layer of mulch around the tree three to four inches deep.

Step 7
Step 8
Follow-up Care

At first, your tree will need frequent watering to overcome the stress of planting. Check soil moisture daily and water the root ball whenever it seems dry more than a few inches deep.

After two months, the tree should be sending roots out into the native soil, so water a wider area. During dry weather, most new trees will need water at least once a week for the first two years. After that, you can begin to water only during severe droughts. Mature trees do fine with less frequent, deeper soakings.

Step 8

Additional Growing Tips & Info:

Now that your tree is in the ground, keep a close eye on it to determine if you should increase or decrease its water. If leaves are falling off, the tree may need attention. Feel the soil around the tree and water more often if it feels too dry and water less often if it’s too moist. Be sure to water slowly and thoroughly to saturate the soil in order to reach the root system.

If needed, support the tree with stakes. When your tree is mature enough, be sure to remove the stakes.

Remove broken branches, but otherwise give the tree a year or two before you do any pruning, as it needs as many leaves as possible to manufacture food.

Use tree wraps only on young trees during the winter to protect tender bark from cold damage. They can harbor insects if left on during the growing season.