Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Planting a Tree in Tucson

So you've chosen your tree and space, but you don't want the extra expense of having someone place the tree into your landscape.  You've elected to do this task yourself.  Here's what you need to know.  But before you dig, you might want to read this post on caliche. Today's post is the 3rd in 5 on my tree series.  Let's begin with these 5 basic rules....
  1. Digging.  Dig a nice and large hole.  For many of us, this is the hardest task because of how hard our ground is!!!  To be honest, I hate this job.   Don't skimp on this part or your tree will suffer the ill effects of your lazy efforts:)  I speak from experience.  How big should you make it?  Loosen or till the soil 3 to 5 times the diameter of the root ball but no deeper than the root ball.  You don't want it to sink into the ground.  Keep it level with the ground, but dig out the diameter.
  2. Plant the tree.   Place the tree in the hole carefully.  Don't break your back. Set it down to check for balance.  Make sure it doesn't lean.
  3. Placement.  If it does lean, adjust the hole accordingly.  Take out more dirt, less dirt, level it better etc.  I'd leave it in the pot until you're ready to fill in the hole with dirt.
  4. Filling.  Get your hose ready.  I usually have trickling water enter the hole as I'm putting the tree into the ground to keep that soil moist when the tree first goes into the ground.  Remove container bottom carefully.  Some people lean the tree to the side and take it out.  Some people cut the plastic container with cutting shears.  However you do it, just make sure you don't rip the tree out of the container and damage the rootball.   Think of the rootball as THE MOST important thing for that tree.  It is the "heart" of the plant and will determine its success in your garden. Once you're ready to fill in the hole, mix in some native soil while the water is trickling in along with some recommended tree soil. Again make sure your tree is level with ground.  Don't compact the ground but also watch for air pockets.  Some of the soil will sink in....just add more to fill in those holes.  Make sure the soil around doesn't tightly compact the rootball or the roots will have a hard time spreading out which could create a root-bound or girdled plant.  That wouldn't be a good thing because during a wind storm, a tree can be blown over due to having a poor root system.
  5. Create a well around the tree.  You'll need to water often for the first several weeks/months. Follow the recommended water guides given to you by the nurseries.  You'll be watering everyday for the first couple weeks and gradually weaning the tree as it becomes established into your landscape.  I really don't like this part either:)  It's tedious.  That's why the well is so important.  You can put your hose on a slow trickle and walk away for a time period.  Create a raised dirt boundary around the diameter of the tree.  The water will "well" up in this area and concentrate onto the rootball below.
  6. Mulch.  I cover the top of the newly dug hole with mulch around the base of the tree making sure the mulch doesn't touch the trunk.  You don't want moisture retained against the plant as it could cause rot and death of the tree.  However, mulch on top of the rootball will retain more moisture and give the tree a better chance to survive its new home.  A dry rootball is a dead tree. 
Buyer beware, watch for this girdling when purchasing a plant.
That's all on trees for today.  Remember that when you buy a tree to check the root system.  If you see roots girdling in a spiral around the tree, do not buy it.  Roots should be below the soil in the post.  Check out the root system of the plant before you buy. Most nurseries here are good about not having those type of plants for sale.  But be careful at Home Depot or Lowes as it is more common.  It could happen anywhere.  Until tomorrow....

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