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How to Prepare Soil for Planting Trees

Trees are both beautiful and functional. Most residential yards will have trees planted for various reasons, such as providing shade and for aesthetic purposes. Not only do trees add value to homes with their curb appeal, but they also provide shelter to wildlife and clean air to our environment. With all that trees offer us, it’s important to ensure they’re planted in a way that will ensure a long and healthy life for each tree. One way to help ensure this is to plant the tree in the correct soil. Mr. Tree, your arborist experts, has some tips on how to prepare the soil for planting your trees, plus a few other helpful tips.

Best Time of Year to Plant a Tree

There is a debate as to which time of year is best to plant new trees. Some say spring is the best time of year to plant a tree, and some say the fall season is the better time of year to plant new trees. Since springtime brings ample rain showers to soak the ground, planting your trees in the spring can be problematic due to the ground being too saturated with moisture to plant anything. Also, many spring seasons have often been cut short with hotter weather showing up sooner than expected. The hot, dry weather can be detrimental to newly planted trees, causing them to shrivel up under the hot conditions.

This leaves the fall season, from August through October, as the optimal time to plant new trees in your yard. During this time period, the temperatures are typically moderate to cool, which is much easier on the newly planted trees than the more extreme heat that often comes on early in spring. The cooler air temperatures will cause the root systems to grow without plant growth above ground. This will help the tree have a strong root base when the warmer weather hits in the spring and the tree starts growing above ground.

If you wait too long and attempt to plant a new tree in November or December, then the weather may be too cold for the new plant growth to thrive, and the roots may not be able to get established. This will put the health of the tree at risk. Once the ground becomes frozen, water won’t be able to reach the roots underground, causing the tree to dry out and die.

Where to Plant Your Tree

Once you decide when to plant your trees, the next decision you want to make is where you would like your trees planted. Are you planting your trees directly into the ground or are you planting in a planter? Both are good options, depending on the mature size of the tree species being planted.

Using a Planter

Planting a tree in a planter is great for adding trees that typically don’t survive well in your local climate, or if you are short on space and want to be able to enjoy some shade and beauty that a tree may provide. If you’re planting your tree in a planter, you should consider using dwarf cultivars to ensure the mature size is appropriate for the smaller available space for roots to grow inside the planter. You need to pick the right size container to plant your tree in.

If you pick a container that’s too small, the tree won’t have enough room to grow roots and may become rootbound. If the container is too large, the moisture at the bottom will become stuck and may cause the tree roots to rot, and the tree will die. The best method when choosing a planter size is to gradually increase the plater size a few inches each year as the tree matures, until it reaches full size. If roots start showing through the drainage holes in the planter, you need to replant it in a larger container sooner rather than waiting for the plant to become rootbound.

Your container must have drain holes to let excess water run out of the soil, so if your chosen container does not have them or doesn’t have enough of them, you can add more by drilling small holes in the bottom of the planter prior to planting the tree.

Planting in the Ground

When deciding to plant a tree in the ground, you must make sure you leave ample room for the tree at full mature size. The roots will extend two or three times that of the root ball when you first purchase the tree. Be sure to dig the hole large enough to cover the root ball, but not cover the tree trunk, as that can cause rot of the trunk due to ground moisture touching the tree trunk.

How to Best Prepare Soil for Planting Your Trees

Once you decide when and where to plant your tree, you will need to know how to prepare the soil for planting time. Spending just a few minutes preparing your soil can save you countless hours of trying to fix a tree that is unwell due to poor nutrition or hydration. Soils are made up of variously sized grains, from tiny clay-sized grains to larger sand-sized grains. The sandier the soil, the better drainage the soil will have, but it may also have difficulty retaining moisture and nutrients to keep the tree well-hydrated and well-nourished. This can be a big problem during the hotter, dry summer months.

Soil that contains a heavier concentration of smaller clay particles will retain moisture and nutrients but can easily become waterlogged in the wetter months. This can cause root rot, which damages the roots enough to starve the plants of both nutrients and water, resulting in an unhealthy tree that could die. By mixing in organic materials such as compost or manure, you can easily balance the drainage of any soil type, whether sandy or clay heavy.

For guidance on which trees may be best for your yard or for assistance preparing your soil for tree planting, contact your tree experts at Mr. Tree.