How To Plant a Tree

With a little planning and preparation, you can add both beauty and value to your landscape with trees. Whether you’re planting a mid-sized “ball and burlap” tree or a smaller bare root tree, your Mantis tiller will make the job easier and will increase the likelihood of success.

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Estimated Time

Full Day

Things You Need

Mantis Tiller
Garden Cart/Wheelbarrow
Safety Glasses

Garden Gloves
Measuring Tape
Growth Hormone
Support Stakes

Step 1
Pick the Right Tree
Pick the Right Tree
This may seem obvious, but it’s very important that you pick a tree that is well suited to your area and one that is appropriate for the intended purpose. If you’re creating a year-round natural privacy screen, you’ll probably want a tree that is somewhat dense and one that holds its leaves (or needles) all year long. If you want summertime shade or great fall color, pick a deciduous tree whose leaves turn the color you want for your landscape.

Step 2
Select the Proper Location
Select the Proper Location
Most importantly, remember that the tree will probably be much larger in several years. So, pick a spot that will accommodate the tree’s growth… without interfering with your house, your neighbors, telephone or electric lines, etc. It’s a little easier to plant and establish trees on fairly level areas, but you can also have success on gently sloping areas. If you’re planting fruit trees, consider where the fruit will drop, and how easy it will be to harvest the fruit when the tree is mature. You probably don’t want apples falling on your deck or patio in a couple of years.

Step 3
Remove Sod from the Planting Area
Remove Sod from the Planting Area
It’s much easier to remove sod than to attempt to till it into the soil. Also, you don’t want grass to compete with your newly planted tree for food and water. Remove sod to create a sod-free circle approximately twice the diameter of the root ball, or about 2 feet in diameter for most bare root trees.

Step 4
Prepare the Soil for Planting
Prepare the Soil for Planting
You’ll want a hole that is at least twice the size of the root ball, or two to three times the size of the bare root mass. A popular saying is “dig a $20 hole for a $10 tree.” Put a tarp or wheelbarrow near the planting site. Use a rototiller to loosen the soil. Remove any big rocks. Add compost, if available, and till the compost into the soil, you’ll be using this soil to “backfill” the hole after planting.
Step 5
Get Ready for Planting
Get Ready for Planting
Remove at least half of the tilled soil from the hole, and place it on the tarp or in the wheelbarrow. Tamp the remaining tilled soil with a garden rake or your feet so that the bottom of the hole will support the root ball or bare roots at the proper height. The proper height is that which aligns the top of the root ball (or the top of the bare roots) with the surface of the surrounding turf or soil. If you’re going to use some mulch to protect the newly planted tree, it’s okay to plant the tree an inch or so lower than the surrounding landscape.
Step 6
Prepare the Tree for Planting
Prepare the Tree for Planting
Once you have the hole prepared, it’s time to prepare the tree. For “ball and burlap” trees, remove the burlap and any wire that constrains the root ball. If the roots are heavily intertwined, gently untangle them. Don”t worry if some of the roots break; it’s better to untangle the roots than to plant a densely tangled root ball.

– For Bare Root
If you are planting a bare root tree, you should soak the roots in water for several hours prior to planting. Spread out or untangle the roots so that they have more room to grow out and away from the center of the root mass. Avoid overlapping any major root stems, as this can cause root girdling, which, over time, can be fatal to newly planted trees.

– For Large Containers
If the tree was purchased in a large plastic container, it is very likely root bound… with a mass of thin, hairy roots around the outside of the root ball. You must untangle most of this root mass. You can, and usually should, cut through the outside of the root mass with a clean, sharp knife. Make three or four cuts from the top of the root mass to the bottom, and then untangle the root mass. This untangling will allow the roots to more quickly spread out to gather and provide the essential nutrients and water to the growing tree.

Step 7
Check the Depth of the Planting Hole
Check the Depth of the Planting Hole
Before adding the removed soil, check the depth of the hole. Put the root ball in the center of the hole, and check to see if the top of the root ball, or root mass for bare root tree, is level with the surrounding soil.
Step 8
Plant the Tree
Plant the Tree
Carefully add soil to support the tree in its new home. Gently tamp the soil with your hands and feet, being careful not to break any of the larger roots.
Step 9
Check for Proper Alignment
Stand back, or ask someone else to check the tree for proper alignment. The trunk should be vertical. Check the alignment from several vantage points. Adjust the alignment, if necessary. You may need to add or remove soil to get the proper alignment.
Step 10
Water... SLOWLY
Water your new tree very slowly and carefully. You don’t want to wash away the soil or create any big holes in the newly planted area. You need to thoroughly water the newly planted tree to help the tilled soil settle and to maintain alignment. You’ve already done all of the hard work; so, take your time and slowly water the newly planted tree area until it is completely saturated. Depending on your soil consistency, you may want to leave a garden hose trickling on the planning hole for an hour or so. You will probably need to add some additional soil after the initial watering.
Step 11
Add a Rooting Hormone
Add a Rooting Hormone
Adding the recommended amount of tree growth hormone, readily available at most nurseries, will help get your tree off to a good start. It’s not absolutely necessary in most cases, but quicker root development always increases the success of transplanting.
Step 12
Water Again… SLOWLY
After thoroughly watering once, and adding a root growth hormone if possible, water again… SLOWLY. The second watering may be several hours after the first, depending on soil conditions and the weather.
Step 13
Add Supporting Stakes
Add Supporting Stakes
If necessary, you may want to add supporting stakes to keep the tree aligned until the soil firms up and the roots take hold. The best method for adding support stakes is to use 3 stakes, driven into the ground outside of the hole and angled away from the tree. You may want to protect the tree by using plastic “sleeves” on the rope or wire. Old garden hose or pieces of plastic tubing will work well. Be sure to remove any support lines before the tree starts to grow around them!
Step 14
Add Mulch
Add Mulch
Adding mulch will help preserve moisture and discourage weeds. And, mulch simply looks better than bare ground. However, be sure to keep any mulch at least two or three inches away from the bark of new trees, as the mulch can also harbor some pests and diseases that might attack the tender young tree.
Step 15
Nurture Your New Tree
Nurture Your New Tree
Water the new tree daily for the next two or three weeks, depending on rainfall. Continue to water slowly and thoroughly, allowing the water to penetrate the full depth of the planting hole.

During the first season, continue to water tree at least once a week, again depending on rainfall in your area. Generally, you should water any time that you haven’t received 1″ of rainfall over the previous week. You can’t depend on your local news to determine rainfall, because the amount of actual rainfall can vary significantly between areas less than a mile apart. The only way to really know how much rain has fallen in your lawn and garden is to have an accurate, easy-to-read rain gauge.



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