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How to Care for a New Tree

How to Properly Water and Assess your Tree:

For the health of your new tree, it is important you consistently water and maintain it. Unfortunately, there is no one-size fits all guide to watering your tree. This is because different size trees need different amounts of water, and different soil types drain water at different rates. To know when to water your tree, you will need to assess your soil with what we call "the cake test." To perform the cake test, all you need is the wooden assessment stick we provide with your tree. Simply insert the stick near the base of the tree and go into the ground about 12-18 inches. If you do not observe any standing water, it's time to water! If you do see standing water, leave your tree and check again tomorrow. When watering, you want to turn your hose on between a trickle and the halfway point and place it near your tree's trunk to allow for a good soaking. For a 3-10 gallon tree you want to let the hose run for 8-12 minutes. For a 15-30 gallon tree you want to go for 20-30 minutes, and for a 45+ gallon tree you want to give it a solid 60-90 minute soak. Check out our cake test video below to see all this information in action!



How to Properly Plant a Tree:


Although planting a tree may seem fairly straightforward, there is an art to it! After planting trees for 30 years, we have gained insight on how to properly do it so your tree has the best chance of survival. Let's take this step by step.
  1. Call 811: It is extremely important to call 811 to check for buried utilities before digging. Utilities often run in our front and back yards without us even knowing and pose a severe threat to your safety. This process can take up to 48 hours.
  2. Gather your tools: You will need: watering hose, bag of mulch, tarp (optional but recommended,) hand saw, tape measure, root stimulator + measuring cup, bucket, and a shovel.
  3. Place your tree where you'd like to plant it. Go ahead and lay your tarp next to it as well to keep your cleanup at a minimum. 
  4. Removing the grass: Use your shovel to mark a circle 4-6 inches from the edge of the tree's bucket. Once you have this measured, you can move the tree out of the way and remove the grass with your shovel. 
  5. Time to dig: First remove the tree from its bucket and measure the height of the root ball. Subtract 2 inches from this number and that's how deep your hole needs to be. This is because you want the tree to stick up 2 inches out of the ground. Once you've done this, you can dig the hole in the area you removed the grass.
  6. Score the roots: This ensures that they're loosened from the root ball and have a better chance of rooting into the ground. Use your handsaw to cut from the bottom to the top of the root ball. Go around the outside of the root ball and score like this every few inches.
  7. Place the tree: Place your tree in the hole. You'll notice it should stick above grade a couple inches. Now is the time to make sure your tree is placed right! If you need to make adjustments to straighten the tree, do it now. 
  8. Fill the hole: To prevent air pockets, we recommend placing your hose near the hole and allowing it to add water to the hole. This will make it easier to compact the soil together as you add it back. Once the hole is filled you can use extra soil to help create the berm around the edge of the tree, but you want to avoid covering the root ball in extra soil.
  9. Apply root stimulator: We recommend using the MicroLife organic root stimulator we carry, which you can find here. For this product, you add 2 oz of root stimulator to each gallon of water to dilute it. You'll want to use 2 gallons of diluted root stimulator per 15 gallons of soil in your rootball. Slowly poor this mixture in the middle of your tree.
  10. Mulch and berm: Now you want to cover the site in mulch. You may need to use a combination of mulch and soil to create a berm around the edge of the tree. This creates a bowl shape around the tree and makes watering easier and more effective. You may elect to wet the mulch to help it find its shape better.

To see a video version of this tutorial: check out our Tree Tips video on planting a tree here!