Tree Planting Preparation – Part 1

By: Jennifer LaMontagne- Assistant Horticulturist- Bloch’s Farm- Green Lake, WI

            Fall is the season when many of the plants, shrubs, and trees in our yards are completing their growing season and getting ready for a long winter’s nap. The cool temperatures and rains of fall, however, provide the perfect scenario to plant certain species of shrubs and trees such as lilacs, forsythia, maple, elm, hawthorn, sycamore, pine, and spruce. By planting about six weeks before the first hard frost of the season, shrubs and trees have a chance for root growth to occur during the time when shoot growth is slowing down.  

Planting in late fall doesn’t allow adequate time to establish a strong root system for all shrubs and trees. For example, it is wise to avoid planting broadleaf evergreens such as rhododendrons, boxwoods, and azaleas in late fall as they can be easily susceptible to winter burn. If you do happen to plant them, choose a site with a bit of windbreak and wrap them for the winter.  

Planting shrubs and trees requires some planning and preparation. Here are some helpful tips to support good health in your new shrubs and trees.

Step 1: Site selection. There can be vast differences in the environmental requirements for each type of tree or shrub. Some factors to keep in mind when choosing the right species for an area are: hardiness zones, sunlight and moisture preferences, soil characteristics and pH, and environment exposure. Be sure to consider the size of the mature shrubs or trees and the amount of space they will need when fully grown. Don’t plant them too close to each other or too close to a building.

Step 2: Marking buried facilities. Have your yard marked for buried facilities such as water, sewer, gas, and electric. This should be done three days before you start to dig. It is free to call Diggers Hotline.

Step 3: Digging the hole and placing the plant. The planting hole for the tree or shrub should be twice as wide as the root ball. The depth of the hole should be no deeper than where the crown of the first root is. Use a shovel to roughen the sides of the hole so that the roots can penetrate, especially if the soil is clay structure. Always remove all containers, burlap, wire, and strings from the root ball before planting. Damaged roots should be clean-cut with a sharp blade prior to planting. If there are any circling or kinked roots in the rootball, sever them to prevent future girdling of the plant. 

Stay tuned for next week’s article with more steps on how to plant a tree. Bloch’s Farm is now closed for the season but feel free to call 920-294-6000 or e-mail with any questions. Visit our website online at and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

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