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Planting Trees and Shrubs: Tips from the Pros

Congratulations! You bought the perfect tree, brought it home and found the exact spot for it. And now…….how the heck do you plant this thing?

We spent the afternoon planting trees with Ryan Glover from Glover Nursery. He shared a few tricks of the trade that will make planting the tree simple, accurate, and guarantee you are giving your tree (or shrub) the best start to growing.

1. Measure twice, dig once.

Know Your Depth

The tree (or shrub) should be planted no deeper than it is in the pot, or if it’s BNB (Balled in Burlap), no deeper than the top of the rootball.  The root flare needs to be exposed, so planting it deeper will actually cause the tree serious harm and will lead to it dying.

Know Your Width

You want to dig the hole 1.5 times the width of the rootball.  Dig the hole wider than the pot as it will…

A. Help break up the soil making it easier for roots to grow
B. Be mixed with compost to give extra nutrients to the plant
C. Create good drainage so the rootball can be watered properly.

2. Roll your plant, don’t drop it, into the hole.

When you pull the tree or shrub out of the pot, you want to be very delicate with the rootball.  If you drop it into the hole, you could cause serious damage to the roots and the plant will struggle to grow.  So, roll that plant into the hole, gently.

3. “True it up!”

“Truing up” your tree is done by adding a bit of soil underneath the rootball in order for it to line up straight before backfilling the hole.  You do not want to jump on the rootball to straighten the tree for the same reasons you do not want to drop it into the hole, it could seriously damage the root structure.  So, tip it left (or right, back, forward as is applicable) and add a bit of soil underneath to straighten it up.  Kinda like adding sugar packets under a table leg to stop if from wiggling.

4. Backfill with glee!

This is the fun part.  After patting Myke’s onto the rootball, take your 30/70 ratio of compost to dirt and fill that hole up!  Pile up the soil into big mounds around the rootball, don’t stamp it down (same reasons as in 2 & 3 for the rootball). Pile it up as high as it will go, all around the plant and then…..

5. Water it in.

This is the best trick in the world to getting that tree settled in straight, safe, and sound. Get your hose and turn it on a steady flow. Shove that hose right on down to the bottom of the space you created around the rootball….then, just wait.  You’ll see something very cool happen after a few minutes.  As the soil gets saturated, those air pockets around the rootball will bubble up and as they do, the piled up soil will fall into the area around the rootball. Like a miniature sinkhole, as it settles the soil securely without damaging those tender roots.

6. Enjoy!


While you will need to deep soak your tree (or shrub) on a regular basis for the next 2growing seasons, for now, kick back and enjoy the beauty of your perfectly planted new tree.

Shade, anyone?

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