Tips Misc-Your New Trees

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

– Chinese Proverb

We’re all excited to plant a new tree in our gardens, but without proper setup and care that excitement can quickly come to an end if our tree wilts and dies.  

In these tips we’re going to help you have the best chance of growing a healthy and happy new tree.

Trees want to be planted in the cool weather seasons (Spring and Fall).  Best if you can plant during the start of these seasons as this gives them time to establish before they have to deal with the heat of the Summer or the severe cold of the Winter.

Generally safest season is Fall, but there are some species that don’t mind a Spring planting, these include fruit trees, Willows, Dogwoods, Magnolias, and Birches.  Many evergreens can handle a Spring planting too. 

Eastern Red Bud

Most people pick the tree first and then look for a place to plant it.  The correct first step is picking the site for your new tree.  The site will determine the size and any special soil considerations.  Once you know where and your site’s conditions, then you can select your tree to fit that site.

OneTreePlanted.Org is a great site for providing you some rules and considerations when selecting a tree for you site.

Consider native trees to New Jersey, they’re more likely to meet our natural water fall and soil conditions.  Check out Native Plant Society of NJ for a good list of native trees for our area.

Planting your Tree

Dig a shallow, broad planting hole. Holes should be 2–3 times wider than the root ball, but only as deep as the root ball.  If wrapped in wire, cut away as much as possible with wire cutters.  If wrapped in burlap or nylon, untie it and cut away as much as possible.

Sit the tree ‘proud’ of the hole, it’s better the tree planted slightly high and mounded with soil than too deep.  Too deep risks the health of your tree.

Before filling the hole, straighten the tree, walk around it to make sure it’s best side is where you want it, it’s straight, etc.  Get it right now before you fill the hole.

Now backfill the hole in layers, compressing the soiled layer with your hands and feet as you go.  Continue until the tree root ball is completely covered but the trunk flare remains above ground.


Using the remaining soil, build a small berm around the original hole you dug.  This will help capture the water and focusing it to the base of your tree.

Mulch your tree to help retain moisture.  However, keep a ring of a couple of inches away from the tree bark to help avoid mold and rot.

Water heavily weekly through out the summer (Spring planting) or until the first heavy frost (Fall planting).

Here are some great websites for planting trees:


Our Final Tips

Now that your tree is planted here are 5 tips to help your tree thrive.

1. Quench your tree’s thirst: Once a week, your tree needs a deep watering. If we don’t get enough rain, use your garden hose to deliver a slow trickle for an hour over the whole root area.

2. Watch Your Step: Tree roots need air, water and open space in the soil. Driving over or lots of walking near the roots will collapse the pore spaces in the soil, blocking the flow of air and water to the roots.

 3. Mulch: A 3″ layer of wood chips over the planting site will prevent weeds from invading and will eliminate the need to mow close to the tree. Do not pile mulch up against the trunk; leave a 2-3” space clear around the base.

4. Protect the Bark: Scraping or cutting the bark may allow pests to attack the tree. Be extra careful when using weed-whackers or lawn mowers near the tree.

 5. Keep the Soil Clean: Weed killers can harm tree roots: read labels carefully. Your tree does not need to be fertilized the first year.