Tree Planting Guide

How To Plant A Tree

Learning how to plant a tree is easy. First off, the grow bag should be removed prior to planting. The easiest method to remove the bag is with a sharp knife or box cutter. Score the fabric in many places and rip the bag from the roots. The root ball is in a 21” grow bag so a hole approximately 25” in diameter and 18-20” deep needs to be dug. The top of the tree root ball should be flush with the ground level. Do not plant too deep.

Stakes & Twine

Keep your tree staked and twined for a year after planting to provide support during storms and to provide protection from foot traffic or car doors. After about a year, twine and stakes should be removed. Loosen any ties if they become tight around the trunk or begin to chafe away the bark. This can cut off the nutrient and water flow to the tree.


Mulch reduces evaporation, delivers organic nutrients, and helps prevent the growth of weeds. Mulching prevents lawn mowers and string trimmers from getting close to the tree and damaging the trunk. Mulching is second to watering in importance to the health of newly planted trees.

But be sure to pull the mulch away from the bark of the tree in a three-inch radius to prevent fungus growth or infection.


Trees need to be watered regularly during their 2-3 summers after planting to survive. Water newly planted trees with 10 gallons of water once a week throughout the summer and during dry spells. Water slowly so that moisture soaks deeply into the soil and water doesn’t run away from the root zone. If your soil has a high clay content it may be necessary to water less frequently to avoid root rot.


Fertilize newly-planted trees lightly. The best time to fertilize is late April or early May, or late fall once plants are dormant. The recommended fertilizer should be spread evenly across the soil surface below the drip zone of the tree branches. Find a tree fertilizer with a slow (also called controlled) release component. Also a fertilizer with equal amounts of Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), Potasium (K) is best. The amount of fertilizer is dependent on soil type and drainage. Consult your local extension office or on the fertilizer bag for recommended rates.

Insects & Disease

Contact your local Extension office. The Cooperative Extension Service is a collaboration between the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, state and local governments, and land-grant universities. Every U.S. county has an Extension office to deliver research-based information on gardening, agriculture, and pest control to the general public.

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