The truth is, conditions in spring and fall normally do make it easier on you and your plants, with plenty of moisture and no threat of scorching summer sun or early winter-freeze warnings. But aside from ice and snow, you’re good to go. Just be sure to adjust your tree or shrub care for the weather (e.g. more water in summer).

Let’s jump into the details:

PREPARE

When you plant is up to you, but we recommend buying your trees and shrubs just before you plant them so you don’t have to protect the roots from drying or overheating.

DIGGING IN – Dig a hole that is 50% wider than and only as deep as the root ball. The root ball should sit flush with the top of the hole.

SOIL PREP – Prepare your soil for success by mixing 2/3 soil with 1/3 PayGro Planting Mix and one cup of Bio-tone Starter Plus for root stimulation. Mix well. This is what we do here and at home and how we can offer a full 2-year guarantee on trees and shrubs we plant for you.

PLANT

So you’ve probably noticed that you can buy field-grown or container trees and shrubs. Field-grown plants are also called ball & burlap (i.e. a ball of roots wrapped in burlap). Here’s how to plant each type:

CONTAINER GROWN
  • Gently remove your tree or shrub from the container.
  • Loosen the roots at the bottom and all the way around with a soil knife or shear if needed. Gently rough or pull apart the soil.
  • Center the plant in the hole 1-3 inches above grade/the ground.
FIELD GROWN
  • Roll the root ball and steer it into the hole.
  • Center your plant in the hole 1-3 inches above grade/the ground.
  • Gently cut and remove the cords or twine. Loosen the burlap and pull away from the trunk below the surface line. You can leave the burlap in the ground, it will break down with other organic material.

SUPPORT

This is where you can make all the difference, friends. Our living tree and shrub companions make our lives more beautiful but require a little attention in return. And if you’re worrying that this sounds like a lot of work, think of them as tiny acts of care that support your investment.

BACKFILL & MULCH
  • Backfill around your plant with your amended soil mixture ½ inch over root ball and pack firmly.
  • Make a saucer of soil around the plant and soak slowly with water.
  • Add a 2-inch layer of mulch, being sure that your mulch does not come into contact with the trunk. We recommend leaving a small 1-2 inch ring around the trunk to avoid exposing it to excessive moisture or pests.
STAKE IF NEEDED

In windy areas, some newly planted trees will lean as their becoming established. Staking your tree will give it stability and ensure that it doesn’t tip, snap or grow at an angle.

  • Secure wire to firmly anchored stakes.
  • Always anchor stakes into stable ground, never the root ball.
  • Where wires contact the tree, use a hose or corrugated plastic to prevent damage.
GIVE THEM A GOOD SOAK

New plants need to be watered slowly and generously, being sure to wet the soil to the depth of the original container or root ball. A good rule of thumb is to let your hose run at a slow, steady stream for 20-30 minutes at least once a week at the base of the newly planted tree (more often in very hot weather).

Shrubs have smaller root systems and need a good soaking to the depth of the root ball or original container every 3-4 days. Just remember: more isn’t always better, so feel the soil just under the mulch. When it’s dry, you’ve got the green light to water. If not, hold off and check again in a day or two.

Established Plants – Generally, the watering guide for new plants should be followed for 1-2 years after planting to ensure good root development and plant establishment. Beyond that, water plants throughout drier summer months to avoid placing them under unnecessary stress.

PRUNE LIGHTLY

Pruning can be intimidating, but armed with information—and well-maintained tools—you can easily rejuvenate and maintain the natural shape and size of your plants. If you don’t know what type of plant you’re working with, simply send us a photo or snip off a small piece and bring into the garden center.

Prune small twigs or side branches to help shape your tree or shrub (this can even help establish a smaller root ball), but do not cut back the trunk or larger branches. A mini cheat sheet:

Spruces and Pines – June or July by cutting the ‘candle’ (new) growth in half.

Broadleaf or Needle Evergreens – Shape in April through July and mid-September through October as needed.

Deciduous Trees – Trees like birches and maples should always be pruned after leaf drop to avoid excessive sap flow. The best time overall is late winter.

Deciduous Shrubs – The key here is bloom time. For shrubs that bloom before May, prune after flowering. For shrubs that bloom after May, prune in March before the shrub begins to leaf out.

All Plants – Trim out dead, diseased or broken branches anytime. Be sure to clean your trimmers with alcohol or soap and water when trimming diseased branches.

GOOD TO KNOW

RULE OF (green) THUMB: Prune ¼-inch above a bud facing the outside of the plant to force new growth in that direction.