Plant a Tree for Earth Day
This April marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. Celebrate and do your part to raise environmental awareness by inviting friends and family to help you plant a tree or shrub and make it a fun outdoor event.
First, stop by your local True Value hardware store for all the tools, products and expert advice you need to start planting. Then follow the steps below.
Step 1. Pick a Tree or Shrub to Plant
The first step in planting a tree is to visit your local nursery to find what you want to plant. Nurseries grow trees and shrubs and then dig them up with a ball of root-filled soil intact. This root ball is snuggly wrapped in a layer of burlap to keep it safe and ready for when you get home to plant. Sometimes trees are sold bare-rooted as well. These trees need to be planted a bit differently than those with a wrapped root ball (more on this later). Choose a tree that is already 5' to 6' tall.
Remember to select a young tree that can survive the seasons in your region. Consider how quickly and how large the tree will grow, as well as its tolerance to disease and insects. If you need help, the nursery can tell you which trees will thrive in your geography and climate.
- Always pick up the tree by the root ball, not the trunk, to avoid damage.
Step 2. Start Digging
Decide where the tree will grow best. When planting a tree, you want to make sure it is in an area with adequate sunlight. Also keep in mind that a tree will need plenty of room as it grows, so don’t plant it too close to other trees or structures. Check the amount of water in the area you’re considering. Wherever you plant the tree, the area should have good drainage. Too much water can cause disease, injury to the roots, or possible death in trees.
Use a shovel to dig a round hole 2-3 times wider than the root ball. Make sure the hole is slightly less deep than the root ball is high. Take measurements using a tape measure or yardstick if you don't feel confident estimating the depth and width of the hole.
- Before you start digging, it's a good idea to check with your local utility companies about gas, water or telephone lines or any other utility line that could cause either a disruption in service or a potentially dangerous situation, such as a ruptured gas line.
- Save yourself considerable cleanup time by piling the dug out soil onto a plastic sheet or tarp. This also prevents the piled dirt from damaging the grass around the hole.
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Step 3. Place the Tree
Stamp down the soil in the bottom of the hole with your foot so it is firm and won't sink when the tree has been planted. Place the root ball into the hole. Check to see that the top of the root ball is at – or a little higher – than ground level. Use a utility knife to cut any twine wrapped around the trunk and fold down the burlap around the sides of the root ball. Don't remove the burlap completely as this can damage the root ball. The tree's roots will grow through the burlap into the surrounding soil and the burlap will eventually deteriorate.
Fill in the hole around the sides of the root ball and pat it around the ball firmly. Form a mound of soil around the bottom of the tree that will allow water to pool there like a basin. This will help keep the roots well watered until the tree is established. Add 2" to 3" of mulch to combat weeds, retain moisture and insulate the tree from temperature extremes. Be careful not to cover the trunk; keep a 1" to 2" no-mulch ring around it.
If your tree is bare-rooted, prune any damaged or unhealthy-looking roots (healthy roots should have abundant root hairs). Then build a cone-shaped mound of dirt in the center of your hole and set the tree on it so the trunk flare (where the roots spread at the base of the tree) is visible and the tree's crown is 2" above the top of the hole. This allows for settling to occur naturally. Fill in the hole and pack the loose dirt around the trunk.
- It's a good idea to mix some peat moss and a small amount of plant food into the soil you replace around your new tree.
Some trees may need to be staked in place to avoid damage from the wind or to simply be held in place while settling occurs. On each side of the tree, hammer standard wood stakes into the ground with a mallet and tie a length of string from the stake to about halfway up the tree. Tie it firmly but give it a little room to flex in the wind.
Step 4. Wrap the Trunk
Cover the lower part of the tree's trunk with a tree wrap to protect it. Start the wrap just above the roots slightly below soil level. Continue wrapping to just below the lowest limb. Tie the wrap into position with cords.
Step 5. Water Your Tree
Be sure you water the root ball as you water the area around the tree. You'll need to do this until new roots grow out of the ball and into the soil. Regularly check the moisture in the tree's area for the first month or two after planting. Provide at least 1" of water per week during the growing season.
You’re done! Your Earth Day project of planting a tree is complete. Happy Earth Day! For the rest of your lawn and garden needs, head to your local True Value hardware store for all the tools, products and expert advice you need to start right.
For more project ideas, visit the Project Library >