Before planting, remove the pot or any wire basket from the root ball. Unless wire baskets are removed at planting time, they can cause major structural problems later, resulting in premature removal of the tree. All twine and burlap should be removed as well because they do not break down in the soil as we might expect.
Remember: No matter the type of planting stock, keep the roots moist during transplanting. If the roots dry out, then the tree will die.
Place the tree in the hole at the proper depth. This may involve removing soil from the top of the root ball if it was planted too deeply earlier in its development (more common in balled and burlapped and containerized planting stock). You might need to add soil in the bottom of the hole to ensure that the tree is not planted too deeply.
Remove any circling roots on the edge of the root ball (Figure 4); these are more common in potted or container-grown trees. Removing these may require extreme measures, such as removing the outer inch of soil (and roots) from the root ball. If circling roots remain on the root ball, the tree likely will have structural problems in the future and will need to be removed long before it reaches maturity.
Figure 4. Remove circling or potentially girdling roots before planting.
Backfill the hole with the original soil that was removed. Break the soil into smaller clumps if possible. This will allow the roots to extend into the new soil more easily. While fertilizer will help the tree grow more quickly, the soil usually has enough nutrients to provide for the tree’s needs. Other soil amendments do not provide any benefit to the tree and are not needed.
Some type of mechanical support might be needed, especially for larger trees. This usually is provided by two or three straps attached by wire to stakes placed outside of the planting hole (Figure 5). Straps should be placed no more than one-third of the distance up the stem.
Figure 5. Staking and strapping used to provide extra support to newly transplanted trees.
The system should allow some limited movement of the stem while keeping it straight. Do not place wire directly against the tree’s stem. When done correctly, the stakes should be used for one year, or two at the most. If the tree requires staking for a longer time, it may need to be dug out and replanted.
The tree should be watered immediately after backfilling and staking. This will help remove air pockets from the soil and improve root-to-soil contact. Future watering will depend on rainfall amounts or lawn irrigation.
Waterlogged soils are a common problem that occurs when lawns are irrigated daily or more often. If the soil is moist, the tree does not need additional water. If no additional water has been added through rainfall or lawn irrigation, water twice a week during the first month after transplanting and once a week during the second month, then cut back to once every 10 to 14 days.