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Most Common Planting Questions Answered

tree planting schematic

Tree Planting Instructions

Plant high, won't die. Plant low, won't grow!

When finished, your tree should be 2 inches above the current level of the soil!
  1. Dig a shallow wide hole, 2 to 3 times the width of the root ball.
  2. Identify the trunk flare. The trunk flare is the point where the roots spread at the base of the tree. This point should be partially visible after the tree is planted.
  3. Before installing the tree into the hole, measure it. The tree must be at least 2 inches above the current level of the soil. It will settle with time. The majority of the roots will grow in the top 12 inches of the soil and these roots need oxygen. If it's a containerized tree, turn the tree sideways to gently remove the container.
  4. Place the tree in the hole, but before you backfill with good soil, make sure the tree is straight from all directions.
  5. If planting a wire basket tree, remove only the top 1/3 of the burlap and rope. Do not remove the wire basket.
  6. Fill the hole with a mixture of the current soil and triple mix or peat moss. Firmly pack the soil to eliminate air pockets. Add the soil a few inches at a time and settle with water.
  7. Stake the tree. Use 2 stakes and flexible tree ties. This will hold the tree upright provide flexibility, and minimize injury to the trunk. Stakes are usually removed after 1 year.
  8. Mulch the base of the tree. Use the 3-3-3 rule: a ring of mulch 3 inches deep, 3 feet wide in diameter and 3 inches away from the base of the trunk (to prevent rotting bark).
  9. Use a solution of 10-52-10 transplanting fertilizer now and repeat once more in 2 to 4 weeks.
  10. Use 20% of the water pressure of the hose for 20 minutes, 2 times per week (and water 2 sides for a large tree). Use a moisture meter to check to see if watering too much or not enough. If there is significant rainfall during spring and autumn, water less often. A sprinkler system is not adequate hydration for a newly planted tree. If your tree is not performing, please call us.

20-20-2 Guideline

Use approximately 20% of the water pressure of the hose for 20 minutes, 2 times a week. Make sure you water 2 sides if it is a large caliper tree with a large root ball. For more information, download our Fall 2013 Newsletter!

How Do I Fertilize a Tree?

During the first year, the only fertilizer required is 10-52-10 transplant fertilizer. This water soluble fertilizer solution should be poured on the soil after planting (but before mulching) and repeated only once about 2 to 4 weeks later. Get more details on how to properly fertilize a tree—read our Spring 2014 Newsletter.

The Miracle of Mulch—Why Is Mulch Recommended?

Repeated freezing and thawing of the soil during spring and fall causes the soil to contract and expand. This can damage the root system and cause newly planted trees and shrubs to heave up. Use a thick coat of mulch over the root area of your trees and plants to protect and insulate the roots. Mulch will keep your plant's root system warmer during the cold winter. It will also keep your plants cooler during the hot summer and assist in retaining moisture. To learn more about the benefits of mulch and which ones we recommend, check out our Fall 2014 Newsletter.

Proper Care and Handling—Has My Tree/Shrub Been Handled Properly?

The majority of problems with trees and shrubs are watering issues. Our trees are under drip irrigation and our perennials are hand watered. We also have overhead irrigation so that our shrubs get the right amount of water when needed. We also sell moisture meters to ensure that you too can water correctly.

Trees and shrubs also need to be protected from damage during the drive home. We will tie up your purchase to minimize windburn to the leaves. But blankets and bungee cords work even better. So shop at the MTF where you know your plant material has been taken care of properly and we will teach you to do the same.

Proper Planting—Was My Tree/Shrub Planted At The Correct Depth?

Some shrubs such as peonies need to be planted with the reddish shoots, called eyes, an inch or two below the surface of the ground. But if you plant too deeply they will not bloom at all.

Many trees planted in Windsor Essex County clay soils should be left 2-3 inches above ground level. So shop at the MTF where we will take the time to teach you good planting instructions to ensure healthy plant material.

The Correct Selection for the Correct Location—Is My Plant Positioned In The Correct Location?

Some plants such as the pine species prefer full sun and dry soil. Other plants like the hydrangea do well with lots of moisture and prefer acidy soil. Emerald cedars love lots of sun but require evenly moist soil.

So shop at the MTF where we have over 200 informative signs and knowledgeable staff to assist you to find the correct selection for the correct location.

Which Fertilizer Do I Use?

Don't waste your money on all purpose fertilizers! Most homeowners need only 2 types of fertilizers: one fertilizer with higher Nitrogen content for trees, shrubs and evergreens and second fertilizer with high Phosphorus content for flowers, flowering trees and shrubs, flowering annuals and vines, flowering hanging baskets and so on. Learn how to select the most appropriate fertilizer for your needs—read our Summer 2014 Newsletter.

Proper Maintenance—Did I Prune My Plant At The Wrong Time?

There are no easy answers for pruning plant material. Some plants bloom on old wood and some bloom on new branches. For evergreens, you must determine if they are needle-bearing or broadleaf evergreens. And many perennials will perform much better with an early summer shearing. So shop at MTF where our knowledgeable staff will teach you the proper maintenance for your selection.

How Do I Protect My Boxwoods From Winter Damage?

Winterburn may be evident if the green foliage dries out and turns brown from the combination of the cold wind and dehydration. Spraying the foliage with an anti desiccant provides a protective coating which helps to maintain moisture in the cells of the leaves and needles. This is especially helpful on broadleaf evergreens, such as holly, boxwood, azaleas and rhododendrons. Read our Fall 2014 Newsletter to learn more winterizing tips.

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