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How to Plant a Shade Tree

Few things are as comforting as sitting beneath the boughs of a tall shade tree on a hot summer afternoon. Follow this guide and plant one in your own backyard.


  • Step 1: Shave the sod Soak the area where you want to plant your tree with water from a garden hose to make digging easier, and then shave the sod by cutting it with your shovel and peeling away the pieces.
  • TIP: If you're planting in your yard, make sure you don't plant below power lines -- shade trees can grow very tall.
  • Step 2: Dig the hole Dig a hole 4 feet wide and 8 inches deep. Then stand in the middle of your hole and dig another 8 inches around your feet to create a pedestal for your sapling.
  • Step 3: Loosen the roots Remove the root ball from its container and loosen the roots to allow for growth. If the root ball is covered in burlap or a fiber pot, tear it away. Then set the tree on the pedestal, making sure that the crown of the root ball is a couple of inches above ground level.
  • TIP: Many shade trees grow well in sand or silt, but few do well in clay soil. If you plant too deeply in clay soil, your tree may become stunted or die.
  • Step 4: Fill the hole Fill the hole around the tree with the same soil you removed to make the hole. Fill until the roots are covered, but don't tamp the ground around the tree with your foot.
  • TIP: Don't put fertilizer into the hole -- it may damage the root system. Instead, wait for the following spring.
  • Step 5: Water the tree Water your tree immediately, using a hose with light pressure. Let the water settle the soil, and then add more backfill until it just covers the root ball.
  • Step 6: Stake the tree Stake your new tree, but be careful not to stake too tightly or for too long.
  • Step 7: Mulch, wrap, fertiize Add 3 to 4 inches of mulch at the base of the tree, wrap it over the winter, and don't forget to fertilize in the spring. Look forward to the shade that will develop over the years.
  • FACT: People have used willow bark, which contains salicin, to treat minor aches and pains for centuries.

You Will Need

  • Garden hose
  • Shovel
  • Tape measure
  • Sapling
  • Stake
  • Mulch
  • Wrap
  • Fertilizer

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