1. Find the Root Flare
Look at the point where the trunk meets the soil. The trunk should be tapered out at that point. If it is not, remove the soil until you find it. The root flare needs to be at ground level when planted.
2. Plant High
Soil in central Indiana is clay which doesn’t drain well. As a general rule, plant 3” above level grade. Taper backfill down, and be sure to expose the root flare.
3. Go Easy on Soil Amendments
Mix in a ratio of 10% compost material with excavated soil. It is important that the tree adapts to the soil it will need to survive in.
4. Dig Holes Wide But Not Deep
It is best to dig a hole 3 times the width of the root ball and taper it towards the tree. Do not dig deep and put loose soil under the root ball.
Cover with a 2” layer of mulch. Keep mulch a few inches away from trunk. Mulch helps with water absorption and weed competition.
Most trees that die within their first year, die due to improper watering. Water for long periods at lower rates to allow water to absorb into the soil. Trees lose most of their absorbing roots when they are dug prior to planting and it takes 1-2 years for the tree to replace them. Water as needed to keep the soil moist but not saturated.
Pruning is extremely important the first 5 years. Proper pruning early in life will improve tree structure and health and reduce the need for maintenance later in life. I recommend getting assistance from a trained professional. It will save you money in the long run.
~The Deater Brothers Lawn & Tree Care on Planting and Care Tips For Trees and Shrubs