We recommend planting trees during the cooler months of the year and avoid planting during the summer when possible. Planting trees does stress them somewhat and adding heat to the stress makes it harder for the tree to survive.
Dig a hole 3′-4′ across, leaving the center 12″ undisturbed. Your hole will look like a moat around an island. This center will become a pedestal for the tree to stand on so it does not sink. The outer part of the hole should be 18″-24″ deep. You should rough up the sides of the hole so roots can more easily penetrate into the surrounding soil.
To encourage a strong root system, “tease” the roots out of the root-ball by running a large spike or screwdriver down the sides of the root ball. This will straighten out the roots so that they are not circling the root-ball. If there are any roots circling more than 1/3 of the way around the root-ball, cut them with pruning shears or a sharp knife. Keep the roots covered or in the shade so they don’t dry out while you are digging. Circling roots keep the tree from forming strong roots out into the soil and can cause tree toppling in severe cases.
Put the tree stake down across the hole to use as a height gauge. Cut down the height of the pedestal so that the top of the root-ball is even with the stake; about 2″-3″ above the soil. This will allow excess water to flow away from the tree, reducing root diseases and help your tree grow healthy and fast.
Back-fill the hole with the soil you removed, discarding any trash or turf and breaking up large clods. If you have rocks larger than your fist, you can remove them. It is tempting to use “good soil” that comes in bags from the nursery, but your tree roots will grow beyond your original hole and so providing a different soil in the hole just encourages the roots to stay in the hole area. Because you are fluffing up the soil as you break it up, the takes up more space. Pile it over the moat area of the hole and it will sink over time. Don’t tamp the soil down, just gently pack it around the roots. Keep it off the root-ball because that will keep water from penetrating.
Remove the stake which is right next to the trunk, it’s job was to protect the tree in the nursery. Next, add stakes which will hold up the tree until it is strong enough to stand alone. Put the stakes in at right angles to the prevailing wind if you can. Pound in two stakes near the outer edge of the hole, making sure they are in deep enough so they don’t wobble . The stakes should not touch the tree branches because they will rub and damage the bark. You can cut off the top of the stakes if they are taller than needed.
Now add ties from the stake to the tree at the lowest height that the tree needs support. Wrapping the ties in a figure-eight from stake to tree, and back to stake works well. Tie or staple the ends around the stake. Be sure to use pairs of ties at the same height so the tree is supported evenly from both sides. Ties should be soft material that allows the tree to sway, not holds it rigidly. Add another set of ties, if needed, to hold the upper canopy vertical.
Gently water the root-ball and the soil in the moat, this will settle the soil a bit and provide moisture to the tree.In the next month or so, check your tree a couple of times a week to be sure it is moist. The root-ball dries out faster and will probably require more frequent water than the surrounding soil. You can use an inexpensive moisture meter, or just stick your finger in to feel the soil. You want the soil to be moist, not dry or wet. Remember, roots only can grow when they have both air and water in the root zone, so avoid over watering.
Add mulch on top of the soil. The mulch acts as an insulator and keeps the soil moist and cool in the summer and warmer in the winter. As it breaks down, it will provide nutrients. We recommend woody mulch 3″-4″ thick and at least 24″ wide. The wider the area covered by mulch, the faster your tree grows because mulch keeps weeds and grass away and lets the tree roots grow without competition. Keep the mulch 6″ away from the trunk. Good mulches include bark chips, shredded bark, or cocoa hulls.