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The answer to the question “when is the best time to plant a tree” is 10 years ago; the second best time to plant a tree is today! Since it takes time for trees to mature and add value to the landscape – and sooner is better than later – here are a few tips on how to plant a tree properly for the fastest growth possible.

Choose the right tree for the space. Landscape design is a living, growing architecture. When you’re considering a tree for a specific space, it’s important to know what the tree is going to look like in 20 years. Look it up on Google images. Is it upright vase-shape or spreading? Will it grow to 30 feet? Don’t plant a tree like that under wires or too close to the house! 

How does tree planting affect your real estate value? Find out here 

Inspect the plant. You want to choose a healthy specimen. Look for torn bark and tip die-back due to drought stress. Full healthy leaves, vigorous growth and a lateral branch structure will ensure a strong healthy landscape tree.

Gently rough up roots before planting

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Plant a $50 tree in a $100 hole. Tree roots will push out sideways and need loose soil to make quick progress. Dig a hole twice as wide as the tree’s root ball. Only dig it as deep as needed to make the top of the root ball 1 inch above the existing soil level. Digging a deeper hole then necessary could cause the tree to sink and eventually die.

If you must use fertilizer… It’s not good to use fast-acting, high-nitrogen fertilizers when you plant a tree. It will push out too much top growth before the root system has developed enough to support it. Good soil amendments for tree planting are organic fertilizers like Holly-Tone or Osmocote. If the soil you are planting the tree in is gravelly and poor, mix and 50% compost, peat moss or potting soil to help the tree establish quickly in the new soil.

Rough it up. Sometimes potted trees can be pot-bound and need a little help. Gently rough up the roots and get them pointing in an outward direction before back-filling. What takes you two minutes to do will take the plant two years to do!

Water, water, water! Watering a tree after planting it is important to remove air pockets. Rather than stomping down around the root ball, take a garden hose with low volume and work it down underneath the plant. You will feel suction as it pulls down soil and displaces the air with water. Create a saucer around the tree after you finished and fill it with water.

Aftercare. You should water your newly planted tree at least once or twice a week through the hot summer. The soil should stay damp but not saturated. If the leaves are yellowing at the tips your watering too much. Did you buy your plant from a nursery? You should spray it for pests as soon as you bring it home because they are probably on it.

The best thing you can do for your newly-planted tree is to put it on a Tree and Shrub Care plan with Groundhog Turf Care! They will keep it bug-free and fertilized for maximum growth.