You dig a deep, narrow hole and put the tree inside, right? Wrong. While this is how many of us have planted trees for years, new planting techniques focus on the tree’s natural development and growth pattern.
Up to 80 percent of a tree’s roots spread out in the top metre of soil. Most of the tree’s roots are shallow and they need good aeration and water. If they are trapped too far down, they can actually suffocate. Another danger of planting a tree in a hole that is too deep is that the bark gets covered with the moist soil and it, too, can suffocate and rot.
Dig a shallow, wide hole (three times wider than deep).
The trunk flare (the base of the tree where the roots spread out) should be visible after the tree has been placed in the hole.
Handle the tree with care. Pick it up by the base, and not the trunk.
Fill the hole with soil, taking care not to let air pockets form. To prevent air pockets, add a third of the soil, water well, allow the water to drain and add another layer, continuing until the soil is finished.
Stake the tree on both sides, if necessary.
Place mulch around the tree, but keep the mulch at least 3cm from the bark of the tree. Water the tree once a week.
The best time of the year to plant trees is autumn or spring. If you plant trees near a lawn, be careful to keep the grass a fair distance from the tree, as the grass roots will be stronger than the young roots of the tree and may strangle them.
Once your tree is well established, you can prune it to direct its growth. Identify the dominant branch and then cut back (but don’t cut off) any competing branches by a third of their length.