Planting a tree sounds like an easy enough task doesn’t it? After all in Costa Rica there is the common phrase “stick it in the ground and watch it grow”, nonetheless successful tree planting requires some technique and with our forests on fire, tree planting has never been so important. Let’s get planting!
Step 1: Dig the hole
It is important to dig a hole suitable for the size of the root ball. You want to dig a hole
that is wide and shallow. Ideally, the hole will be three times as wide as the diameter of
the root ball and only as deep as its height, so that when it is planted, none of the trunk
is below the soil line. If the hole is too narrow, the roots will not be able to spread and
expand enough to develop a secure anchor for a mature tree.
If you are in a clay environment scarify the edges of the hole with a pickaxe and you can even mix in the use of sand as drainage.
Step 2: Place the tree and add soil
If the tree has come with its root ball wrapped in a burlap sack, remove the material and
any remnants of twine. If the tree is being transplanted from a container, check that the
roots have not become compressed. If they seem tightly bound to one another, carefully
tease the roots away from one another so that they will spread out in different directions
when they grow (if the tree is planted and the roots are too tightly wrapped up in one
another, they can girdle the tree and effectively strangle it).
Always lift the tree by the root ball and not the trunk. Orientate the tree as you wish,
being aware of where the branches of the mature tree will go. Backfill the hole with good
quality topsoil. Use the soil you removed to dig the hole in the first instance (unless it is
clay), but ensure that it is loosely structured to allow penetration by roots. You can add
well-composted organic material to the soil to help improve its structure, as well as add
nutrients to the soil.
Step 3: Add mulch and water
Mulch is great for soil moisture but BE very sure not to cover the root crown or you will
kill the plant and too much mulch will cause the roots to rot. A newly planted tree should
be well watered. Preferably using harvested rainwater, you should water the tree every
day for two to three weeks to promote it’s growth.
Step 4: Stake if needed
if your tree is fragile, has a thin trunk or may experience strong winds, tie it to a stake to
ensure it grows straight and to provide support. Drive a stake a couple of inches from
the trunk and lash the trunk to it loosely.