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How to Plant a Tree

Trees ask for little, mostly because they cannot talk. So just assume that they like company and plant them a new friend.


  • Step 1: Choose a spot Choose a spot to plant your new sapling.
  • Step 2: Take a soil sample Dig a small sample of the soil and take a look. If it is heavy with clay or very sandy, plan to add one part compost to every three parts soil that you shovel out.
  • Step 3: Inspect site Check for wires and pipes above and below your site. If there are wires above, you may still be able to plant a low-growing tree.
  • Step 4: Pick a tree Visit a local nursery and pick out a sapling, ideally one five to six feet tall. Match the tree's preferred soil type and sun exposure to the site you have chosen.
  • TIP: Trees that are native to your area are more likely to do well in your ecosystem and provide food and habitat to wildlife.
  • Step 5: Dig a hole Dig a hole no higher than the root ball but at least twice as wide.
  • TIP: Leave rough surfaces in the hole so roots can penetrate as they grow. Roughen the sides and bottom of the hole with a stick or shovel.
  • Step 6: Remove root ball Quickly remove the root ball from its container and gently straighten the roots as needed. If the roots are wrapped in burlap, let it fall to the bottom of the hole.
  • Step 7: Place tree Place the tree in the hole, then stand back to see if it is straight. Adjust as needed.
  • Step 8: Replace soil Replace soil around the roots. The flare, where the roots spread at the tree's base, should be just above the soil line.
  • Step 9: Pack soil Pack the soil around the tree firmly but gently with hands and feet to fill in any air pockets, but not so hard that water can't get in.
  • Step 10: Spread mulch Spread mulch two inches deep in a ring about two feet in diameter around the tree, but not within a few inches of the trunk. Mulch can be wood chips, pine needles, grass clippings, or fallen leaves.
  • TIP: The ideal time to plant a deciduous tree is while it is dormant: in fall after leaves drop, or in early spring before leaves come out.
  • Step 11: Water Water your tree when it doesn't rain. A young tree will need to be watered about every week for the first year.
  • Step 12: Protect tree Protect your tree from strong winds by tying two stakes to the trunk. If you have deer in the area, wrap the trunk loosely with wire mesh hardware cloth, especially in winter.
  • FACT: In the summer, an acre of Iowa forest can cool the surrounding area by as much as 15 degrees.

You Will Need

  • A site for your tree
  • A trowel
  • A soil sample
  • A list of tree species native to your area
  • A local nursery that sells native trees
  • A large shovel
  • Fertilizer
  • Mulch
  • And a hose or other water supply
  • Supports and protection for the tree
  • Compost

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