TREE PLANTING BASICS
1. Choose healthy stock with a sturdy root system. Check for girdling, circling, or compacted root systems. Select only specimens with branches well distributed around and up-and-down trunk.
2. Lift only by the container or root ball. Using the trunk for a handle usually breaks off many needed tiny roots.
3. Dig your hole wide: preferably three times width of root spread, but at least twice the diameter of the root ball. Dig ONLY just about as deep, but no deeper, than height of root ball. The height of your surrounding soil should be an inch or two lower than the height of the soil on your tree as grown at the nursery.
4. Do not prune to compensate for root loss at the time of planting. Prune only to remove dead, broken, or diseased limbs and to correct structural defects. Your newly planted trees will likely recover more quickly from transplant shock by generating new roots when as much of the foliage crown as possible remains intact.
5. Prune off any kinked, girdling, or circling roots found. Loosen root mass if compacted (consider splitting vertically to "butterfly").
6. Backfill with parent soil. No organic amendments, unless your soil is so poor it would not allow weeds to grow. No fertilizer for first year in new location. Tamp soil firmly, but do not compact.
7. Mound or berm soil (4" to 6" high) to form a doughnut-shaped watering basin just beyond existing roots. Water in your new tree to eliminate air pockets in the root zone (and to provide moisture). Fill berm (saucer); let it drain; fill one to two more times.
8. Mulch with organic mulch like wood chips, shavings, leaf compost, or shredded bark. Apply 3" deep, and taper toward trunk.
9. Remove nursery stake and ties (always too close [rubbing] and too tight [no movement]). Stake only if necessary to keep tree upright or in place. Place stakes outside of existing root ball to minimize broken roots and to allow trunk movement. Remove as soon as no longer needed.
9a. One stake: placed on up-wind side of tree.
9b. Two stakes: placed at right angles to wind direction.
9c. Ties: NO wires (not even inside of something like old garden hose). Green plastic, 1" wide, tree tape has worked well here. Placement is important and should be at point where trunk returns to normal (upright) after bending. Cut off stakes above ties to avoid rubbing on tree's branches or trunk.
10. Irrigate when rainfall does not keep root zone moist. In central coastal California, this means an average of 10 to 20 gallons per trunk diameter inch per month for established trees -- doubled and spread over the month in weekly applications for newly planted.
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