If the tree you are planting is balled and bur lapped, or even if it is bare rooted, it is important to understand that the tree’s root system has been reduced by 90-95% of its original size during transplanting. As a result, trees will exhibit what is known as transplant shock. Proper site preparation, coupled with good follow-up care, will reduce the impact of transplant shock. Carefully follow these eight simple steps:
1. Dig a shallow, broad planting hole approximately three times the diameter of the root ball, but only as deep as the root ball.
2. Identify the trunk flare, where the roots spread at the base of the tree.
3. Place the tree in the hole so that the trunk flare is no more than one to two inches above the level of the surrounding ground, but not so deep that the trunk flare will be covered when you fill the hole.
4. Straighten the tree in the hole.
5. Fill the hole, gently but firmly. Tamp and moisten the soil a few inches at a time. If the tree is balled and bur lapped, gently cut the burlap and rope from the top one-third of the root ball.
6. Stake the tree if you are concerned about vandalism, accidental contact by vehicles and equipment, or windy conditions. However, most trees in a home landscape do not require staking.
7. Mulch the tree well to a depth of two to three inches.
8. Water the tree at least once per week in the absence of rain during the growing season. A slow drip is preferred over a quick soaking. Keep the soil moist, but not saturated. When the soil under the mulch is dry, it is time to water.
After you have followed these eight steps, further care in the first year should be limited to pruning dead or broken branches. When questions arise, contact a certified arborist.
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