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Plant Trees the Right Way

Tree Planting in Rochester: The Right Way to Do It

Take advantage of the ideal seasons for tree planting – spring and fall! Sadly, many newly planted trees pass away too soon due to incorrect methods. By acquiring knowledge on how to properly plant a new tree, you can enjoy its beauty and benefits in your life much longer than anticipated.

If you’re ready to plant a tree, this article is for you! Read on to learn how wide and deep your hole should be, what the best backfill material is (plus what not to do), whether or not staking your tree is necessary, why post-planting care matters most of all, and finally – tips for keeping it hydrated.

How To Dig A Hole For Your Tree

When creating a home for your new tree, the hole you dig is its base – so it’s important to pay special attention to size. It should be wide enough, and also of sufficient depth – because this will form the foundation upon which your little sapling grows!

Planting Hole Width

Dig a hole that’s two to three times the width of your tree’s root-ball – this will ensure that the soil around it is loosened and well-draining, free from rocks and debris, as well as easy to amend should you require. Clay soils can be especially prone to compaction, so remove anything that can restrict roots from growing freely through. Finally, use your shovel for mixing any amendments into the soil evenly before backfilling (but only if needed).

Planting Hole Depth

To ensure that your new tree’s rootball is secure and stable, make sure the depth of its planting hole corresponds with the size of its rootball — not any deeper! Additionally, if you find yourself having dug a hole too deep by mistake, simply fill it in until it reaches to an appropriate level for your desired tree species. Compact the ground using your feet so that everything stays firmly rooted in place.

Planting At The Right Depth

Planting trees properly is key to ensuring their survival and growth. The #1 mistake people make is planting the tree too deep, but it’s easy to prevent this with a little knowledge.

Looking for the right spot to place your new tree? Then aim to ensure that its trunk flare is slightly higher than soil level. To identify this area, seek out where the roots begin and locate the part of the base at which it widens. There’s no special trick necessary – just remember this simple guideline!

All trees must have a visible trunk flare. If yours is buried, it’s planted too deep and needs to be adjusted for optimal growth.

A PRO TIP: Unearth soil around the rootball to locate the trunk flare. It’s common for trees in their nursery container or burlapped rootball be planted too deeply.

Avoid Planting Too Low

Planting a tree in an area where water pools can be detrimental to its health and vitality. Not only is the risk of fungal growth increased, but it also brings greater chances of insect infestations while making way for soil and mulch to collect around the trunk flare, eventually burying it which could lead to death over time. Avoid this at all costs by planting your new tree in an elevated spot with good drainage systems!

Backfilling The Planting Hole

Planting a new tree is easier and more effective with two people – one to hold the tree securely in position while the other backfills around its rootball. After you’ve placed your sapling in its hole, use the soil that was dugout earlier to fill it up again; this will ensure successful growth of your little buddy!

Is Amending The Backfilled Soil Necessary?

Have you ever been told to add amendments to your backfilled soil? This can be a tricky question with no definite answer. Generally, if compost and mulch have already been added to the garden soil, it should possess adequate fertility levels capable of supporting the needs of a new tree – making amendments unnecessary.

Prior to making any changes to your soil, think carefully first:

  • Are the other plants in your garden flourishing? If you’re not actively fertilizing them, it’s a clue that your soil has sufficient nutrients to sustain their growth.
  • If you want to maximize success with your tree planting, consider selecting species native to the area. Native trees naturally thrive in the local soil conditions and climate.

Knowing if your soil requires nutrition and fertilizer is as easy as testing it. Though hardware store test kits are inexpensive, they can be unreliable or even wrong – so you don’t want to risk fertilizing too much! For accurate results, contact a professional laboratory for better precision.

Avoid Creating Air Pockets

To properly nurture your new tree, be sure to backfill the planting hole evenly. Doing this will ensure that air and water circulate freely throughout the soil – allowing for optimal growth of roots since roots can’t grow in pockets of trapped air. Without proper drainage from unevenly-placed soil, a barrier is created which prevents oxygen from entering and moisture from being released. Therefore, make sure you backfill as carefully as possible!

To ensure a successful outcome: 

  • Fill the soil in layers – After adding one layer of soil, water it properly so that the particles settle evenly and air is able to escape. Continue this process until you finish backfilling all the dirt.
  • Gently press down on the surface – Once everything is in place, use your foot to apply light pressure on top of it but refrain from stomping as that can make it too compact for water or oxygen molecules to pass through (resulting in an unhealthy tree).  
  • Give your new tree plenty of water – Thoroughly moisten every bit of surrounding earth with appropriate irrigation techniques once planting has been completed.

Should You Stake A New Tree?

Certain trees can gain immense advantages and fortify their root system with proper staking for the 6 to 12 months following planting. Nevertheless, determining whether or not a newly planted tree should be supported is based on multiple conditions.

Crown Size

If the crown of your tree is dense and you have a small root system, it may be more vulnerable to toppling in heavy winds. To ensure your tree’s stability while its roots take hold, staking can provide extra support.

Tree Shape

When planted too close together in nursery containers and staked to the ground, young trees may become tall yet slim. If you remove this stake upon planting your new tree, as it is suggested that you do so, there’s a risk of the stem flopping over from lack of support. Staking will help keep these skinny trunks upright until they gain strength with their growth. Smaller or wider-spreading trees are not prone to tipping like their taller counterparts and thus won’t require staking for additional stability.

Planting Location

For trees planted in calm locations, staking is not necessary. But if the environment your tree is in tends to be more windy, you should put up stakes for optimal protection.

Type Of Rootball

Trees grown in a balled and burlapped form come with bigger root systems compared to those that are cultivated in nursery containers, providing them the necessary stability so they do not require staking.

How To Stake A New Tree

For optimal tree staking, use two or three big and strong stakes outside the rootball (not within it) of your tree. After that, fasten soft yet durable ties around the trunk with the help of nails or screws to secure them into place on the stakes. With this technique you’re sure to have a healthy and supported young sapling!


  • You can try to drive three anchors into the soil surrounding it and secure them with nylon webbing. Attach flexible ties around the trunk for additional stability. By taking these measures, you can ensure that your trees stay firmly planted in place no matter how powerful or gusty Mother Nature gets!

Ensure the stakes are positioned in such a way that they don’t come into contact with branches – otherwise, as branches move and rub against them, you will start to see tree bark fall off. Furthermore, never tie any new trees directly to the stake for support.

Secure the flexible ties at the bottom of your tree to ensure it stands tall and sturdy. You want your tree to be able to sway in the wind, as this will strengthen its trunk over time; however, you should still aim for a secure fit that won’t allow too much movement so that it doesn’t break apart.

Remember to never secure your tree with anything other than breathable material, such as twine or rope. These materials are less likely to scrape the bark off of the trunk and cause damage over time. Monitor how well your staked tree is doing every 6 months, and remove any stakes when you can tell that it’s stable enough on its own – otherwise, keeping a tree tied down for too long will inhibit proper growth!

Mulching A New Tree

Adding a blanket of organic mulch around your freshly planted tree is essential to protecting its health and growth. Not only will it slow the rate of water evaporation, but also prevent weeds that may deplete valuable resources from flourishing near your tree. Additionally, this layer of mulch guards against extreme temperature fluctuations in the soil which can be damaging for any young sapling!

When planting a tree, it’s wise to form a protective border of mulch that is 2-3 feet in radius around the trunk. Not only will this provide your tree with many advantageous effects, but also marks off an area where you should not mow or plant anything. For optimal results, spread three to four inches of mulch and make sure to replenish on occasion.

Avoid This Mulching Mistake!

Under no circumstances should you ever construct a mulch volcano! This occurs when one piles up an excessive amount of mulch around the tree’s trunk – something that we have all seen yet is still incorrect. Mulch volcanoes are actually among the leading causes of death in trees.

Always strive for your tree’s trunk to flare out (the area at the bottom that widens before roots start extending). To avoid creating a mulch volcano, decrease depth of the mulch as you approach closer and never place it directly against tree’s trunk. Instead visualize constructing a “donut” consisting of mulch around entire circumference of your beloved tree.

Watering Your New Tree

When you’ve just planted your tree, it is essential to give it regular hydration. As the rootball is small and limited at this stage, providing adequate water will be its only source of moisture.

For optimum results, try watering your tree daily for a few weeks – making sure that the full surface area of its rootball becomes moist all over. This will provide an optimal environment for growth!

Subsequently, water your plants weekly for the duration of their first season.

To ensure optimal plant growth, always water “low and slow” to allow the moisture to penetrate deeply into the soil and encourage healthy root development.

As the weather transitions to cooler temperatures and rain showers become regular occurrences in the fall, you can usually halt your watering routine until spring returns. However, if we experience a warm winter with no snow blanketing the ground, occasional winter waterings will be advantageous for your newly planted tree.


After planting a tree with proper care and attention, you can rest easy knowing that not only have you done something good for the environment and its creatures, but also for yourself; watch as it grows into a majestic beauty!

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