Posted: February 24, 2015

In a recent Maier Tree and Lawn newsletter, we said that the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago! Since that isn't possible, the best time to plant a tree is this year! Because it takes so long for a tree to mature, and a healthy tree can have a lifespan of many decades, planting a tree is a great way to "pay it forward" for generations to come. That’s why it’s important to do it right when you plant a tree. Here are a few simple guidelines to follow for when and how to plant a tree.

When is the best time to plant a tree?

The best times to plant a tree is in April through early May and September through early October. April through early May are ideal because there should be ample rainfall and cooler temperatures that allow the young transplanted tree to establish a root system before the heat of summer. September through early October are good because the tree is, or will soon be, dormant, and even though the air may be cooling off, the soil is still fairly warm. That creates a good environment for root growth making the tree ready to really grow with the coming of spring.

Summer can be a bad time to plant a tree. Hot temperatures and direct sun will stress a newly planted tree to the point that it may not survive. Without the proper watering it requires, a new or transplanted tree can quickly fade and die during a summer dry spell.

How do I plant a tree?

Here is a list of what is important to do to plant a tree properly to give it the best chance for a long and healthy life:

  • Select a tree that is compatible with location and climate region. The best choices are trees that are native to the area.
  • Check for underground cables or utility lines before digging.
  • Prepare the hole. Ideally the hole should be 2-3 times the diameter of the root ball. This breaks up compacted soil and allows better root development and allows roots to spread as they grow.
  • Dig the hole only deep enough for the root flare (where roots change to trunk) to be just above with the finished soil. A common problem is planting a tree too deep. That will cause problems for the tree later in its life.
  • When placing the tree in the hole, place it in gently taking care not to disturb the root ball. If the root ball is wrapped in burlap, cut the burlap away after the tree is positioned on the hole.
  • When backfilling the hole, be sue not to stomp on, or compact the soil around the tree. Do not use a commercial fertilizer. It may be too harsh for the now vulnerable transplanted tree to tolerate.
  • For the initial watering, pour one gallon of water for every six inches of tree height. The tree should then be watered regularly by trickling a hose at the base of the tree.
  • It is also important to cover the area of exposed dirt with 2-3 inches of mulch. Take care to keep a space 2-3 inches wide around the base of the tree free of mulch.

Planting a tree that can be enjoyed for generations to come is a rewarding experience. To ensure you are planting a tree properly, you may want to consult a professional arborist like those at Maier Tree and Lawn. It is our pleasure to help you add to the tree population of southeast Minnesota. To be sure all your young and mature trees are healthy and have a long life, contact Maier Tree and Lawn at 507-286-8733 in Rochester, or 507-454-7000 in Winona.


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