July 21st, 2015

If you're buying a tree, but you know nothing about buying trees, you can save your freak-out for another day. Got Stump has got you covered with some dos and dont's for new tree owners.

Buying a New Tree

First of all, choose a tree appropriate for your property. Edmonton and surrounding counties are typically zoned 3b, 4a and 4b. Pay special attention to: soil and moisture requirements, sun and shade value necessary, and plan for maximum height and spread of your new tree. All good tree nurseries and garden centres supply this information on grower tags.

Make sure before purchasing your new tree it is in good health: a clean unmarked straight stem (be careful to avoid trees with sucker branches growing out of the base of the leader!), healthy fresh leaves, no insects, a good size root ball, and a dominant leader established on the top.

Consider whether you want a fast-growing tree or slow growing tree. Fast-growing trees establish themselves quicker but unfortunately require more care over its life span, (e.g. pruning). Planted improperly and left uncared for these trees can become unruly both in appearance and can greatly affect landscaping in not-so-good ways. Slow-growing trees take more patience to grow, require less attention and have greater value once mature as they are rarer to find.

Also consider whether the tree produces fruit, berries or other seasonal products that require clean up. Many a homeowner has purchased such a tree only to remove it a few years later due to the amount of mess produced and work required.

Finally, the location of the tree matters. Consider how big the tree will grow and take caution to not plant it too close to permanent or semi-permanent structures such as concrete driveways and fences – particularly if the tree is fast growing.

Planting a New Tree

Once you have chosen your perfect tree and have brought it home, provide care for it by keeping it in a shaded, cool, and moist until you are ready to plant.

Remove all labels, plastic, wires, etc. from the tree's stem and branches. Easy does it, gently handle your tree. Do NOT pick up your new tree by the stem.

If you have purchased a container grown tree dig a shallow wide saucer-shaped hole, 3 times the size of the root ball diameter, and as deep as the root ball is high. Throw a handful of bone meal into the bottom of the hole, distributing it evenly.

Carefully remove the pot before putting the tree in the hole. Using a knife score the root ball around its periphery about 1/2 inch deep. This will help promote growth of the roots system. Place the tree in the middle of the hole. The root collar (where the roots meet the stem) should be just below (approximately an inch) the level of the surrounding soil. On poorly-drained, compacted, or wet soil, leave at least 1/3 of the root ball above the soil grade and mound up soil to the root collar.

Caliper-sized trees require a hole that is about 2 feet deep and 3 feet wide and will have been planted in a wire basket or burlap to aid in its extraction from the ground at the nursery. When planting, do not remove the burlap, wire baskets, etc. from the root ball before placing it in the hole. This will minimize disturbing the more mature root system and the roots will have no issue penetrating the basket or burlap over time.

Backfill the hole with a mixture of 75% topsoil and 25% peat moss, packing it firmly and evenly around the root ball.

Watering Your New Tree

Water your new tree early morning or late afternoon for full benefit. Use a garden hose (no nozzle or sprayer attached) on very low pressure, with a slow light trickle a flow consistent of a drinking fountain. Water at the base of the tree, about 1' away from the root collar, and move the hose evenly around the tree while watering. This technique ensures even healthy root growth.

General Watering Rule for a Newly Planted tree

  • Daily for two weeks, depending on temperature and wind, apply 1-2 gallons per inch of trunk diameter
  • Every other day for two months , depending on temperature and wind, apply 2-4 gallons per inch of trunk diameter
  • Weekly until established (one to two or more seasons)

Over-watering is a common mistake and causes root rot and fungal infection. Leaf yellowing, brown spots or dropping leaves are a sign of over watering. Do not fertilize for 1 year, as this can cause root rot.

Stakes, Wrap and Mulch

Staking a tree is similar to training wheels on a bike. Stakes help keep the tree upright and straight while it develops a strong healthy root system.

Trees need some natural movement caused by the wind so they develop properly. It is important that stakes be installed correctly to prevent tree damage. Use size appropriate stakes, 1/3 of the height of the tree, there should be a space of about an inch between the stem and the stake.

Use professional adjustable tree straps or ties made of soft pliable material to attached the stem to the stake, do NOT use wire or plastic this will result in damaging and scaring the stem. Remove stakes after 1-2 years.

When to wrap? Wrap a new tree's stem only if sun hits its trunk in winter, this prevents sun scald or frost crack. Overlap paper wrap or burlap from the bottom up. Leave wrap on only in the winter, for 1 or 2 seasons. Wrap young trees in the winter when there are hungry deer and rabbits in your area. Be sure to wrap with the appropriate professional material.

Mulching is important for a newly planted tree. Mulch helps keep in needed moisture, keeps out weeds, and keeps soil from compacting. A 3-inch layer of mulch around the base of the tree is sufficient; do not allow the mulch to touch the tree collar. Do not use more than a 3-inch layer, as too much mulch can cause fungal growth.

« Removing a Stump Yourself: Comparing Methods