A. SITE PREPARATION:
- Remove grass and weeds. Generally, sites are sprayed in advance with a root-killing herbicide such as Glyphosate (Roundup) followed a week or more later by mechanical removal.
- Loosen the soil by spading or tilling.
- Dig the planting hole roughly twice the width of the tree to be planted and the same depth as the root ball.
- We do not generally amend the soil when planting trees. The roots of a tree ultimately expand well outside of an area that is practical to amend effectively. To have success, trees will need to be able to tolerate the native soil they are planted in. Good site selection is very important.
B. HANDLING THE SEEDLINGS:
- Bareroot seedlings – Plant only in the dormant season (e.g. November or March/April). Keep the roots damp, not immersed in water. If a well-developed root system (as with some transplants) exists, then carefully arrange the root, separating major branches with loose soil.
- Biodegradable container-grown seedlings – Can be planted during the growing season, but best to avoid July/August unless extra shade and water will be provided. Plant either in the container or, somewhat better, gingerly remove the container and carefully cover the exposed soil-root mass with loose soil.
- Pot-grown seedlings – Can be planted during the growing season if adequate water is provided. Check the roots to see if they are pot bound, i.e. with roots circling around the inside of the container. If so, cut these the circling roots and break up the root ball on the outside. This will stop the circling from continuing and induce branching into the native soil.
- Burlap-balled trees – Can be planted during the growing season if provided with adequate water. Burlap may be left around the root ball but, if manageable, the tree will usually get a faster start at root growth if the burlap is carefully removed.
- Planting depth should be nearly the same as the nursery planting depth. Care should be taken to avoid planting the tree too deep. It’s better to plant too high than too low but it may also lead to the plant drying out more quickly and needed more follow up watering.
- Wet the soil as the hole is backfilled around the tree. This allows the soil to settle naturally around the tree. Make sure that there are no air pockets remaining around the roots but avoid compacting the soil.
- Staking – we generally prefer not to stake trees as it allows the trunk to develop more strength. Stake only if necessary to maintain the tree in a stable upright position and remove the stake as soon as it is no longer necessary.
- Mulch – Trees are mulched after planting to a depth of 2 – 3″. Avoid piling mulch against the trunk. This traps moisture around the trunk and can lead to disease.
- Water – Obviously the need to water depends on multiple factors such as the weather, soil, shade, mulch. Use common sense. Test the soil around the tree for moisture and act accordingly
- Protection – Deer and other foragers tend not to prefer conifers but that doesn’t mean they won’t occasionally eat them. A more common problem is male deer rubbing the trees with their antlers. The pinetum is fenced to keep out deer but placing cages around individual trees until the trees are fairly large can be effective. At that point, the rubbing is less of a problem. Repellents seem to have little effect in our experience.
- Pruning – Pruning may be necessary to clear the interior tangle of branches of pine trees which have been sheared (best is to never buy such a tree) or to raise the branch level when a clear basal trunk is desired for aesthetic reasons or to improve air flow through the plant to reduce problems with fungal diseases. Pruning of dead branches probably helps air flow and is aesthetically satisfying. In many cases, we do routine under pruning each winter to keep foliage well away from the ground. This helps with chemical weed control and needle cast diseases.