"The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago -- the second best time is now". - Chinese Proverb
Whether you are planting one tree, a few, or several hundred seedlings, it is so important to take care as you plant so that your tree(s) can be successful.
Below are a few tips for you to follow, or be reminded of, when planting a tree. Spring is a great time to plant trees because the temperatures are still cool and there are frequent rain events. Late fall, after leaf drop, is the other preferred time to plant because the tree is entering its dormant state for the winter. For evergreens, early spring is the preferred planting time.
1. First, prior to planting, you must decide where you want the tree to grow while also considering the site conditions the tree species will need to be successful (like sun, shade, dry soil, wet soil, adequate space, etc.). After you have your site selected and prior to digging, it is required by law to check for underground utilities by calling 8-1-1.
2. Identify the trunk flare on your tree, or where the trunk expands at the base of the tree. This should be at, or slightly above, grade once in the ground. Once identified, use the trunk flare as a way to measure how deep to dig the hole. The hole should also be 2-3 times wider than the root ball, so that the roots have room to expand easily.
3. Inspect the roots of the tree prior to planting. If there is a burlap bag, plastic container, or wire cage around the roots, it MUST be removed prior to planting. If the roots have developed a circular pattern, try to free them and straighten. For bareroot seedlings, ensure the roots are all separated and straightened.
4. While holding the root ball, place the tree inside the hole and have a friend or family member ensure that it is straight. Also, ensure the hole is the correct height so that the trunk flare is at, or just slightly above, ground level.
5. Fill the hole with soil around the roots of the tree, while either pressing or gently stepping on each layer around the root ball to remove any air pockets that could otherwise dry out the roots. Depending on the size of the tree and hole, you could also water as you add soil into the hole to eliminate air pockets.
6. Once the hole has been filled and the trunk flare is confirmed to be visible at, or slightly above grade, add a 2-3 inch layer of mulch (leaf litter, pine straw, shredded bark, peat moss, or wood chips) around the tree to hold moisture, moderate soil temperatures, and reduce weed/grass competition. The mulch layer should start 2 inches away from the base of the tree to avoid bark decay. Do not volcano mulch your new tree! Instead, think more like a donut around the base of the tree. Learn more about proper mulching, and why volcano mulching is bad, in this article.
Other things to consider include staking your new tree, especially seedlings, to help stabilize and promote straight growth. However, stakes and ties should be flexible and secured on the lower half of the tree and also removed after a year of growth. You could also add a tree shelter around the tree if wind or wildlife are a concern.
At this point, your new tree is planted and it is time to water, monitor for any signs of stress, and watch it grow. Water your new tree once a week, barring rain, and more often during hot and/or windy weather. Some trees may require pruning but avoid doing so until after one year of growth in the new location.
We are always willing to help with your tree questions but if we can't answer it, there are other great resources available to you. You can locate and contact a local certified arborist or reach out to the OSU Extension horticultural office at (419) 578-6783.
In case you hadn't heard yet, it is Ohio Native Plant Month! In July 2019, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine designated the month of April as Ohio Native Plant Month, making it the first state in the Country to have a law recognizing the importance of native plants for a whole month.
Well, it is 2023 and here we are still celebrating native plants in Ohio and the incredible role they play in our environment! Native plants are plants that occur naturally in an area and that have evolved in harmony with wildlife to coexist and support one another. They provide many benefits, so many that I'll highlight just a few.
Ohio is home to almost 2,000 different species of native plants which include flowers, vines, grasses, shrubs, and trees. It is critical now more than ever, to choose native this spring when making landscaping decisions. If you're wondering, how do I "choose native"? There are several native plant sales going on already this spring that have a fantastic variety of native flowers, grasses, shrubs and trees to choose from! Listed below are a few of those sales: