Planting a tree isn't as simple as digging a hole and tossing a sapling in. Careful selection of tree type and location is crucial to optimal tree health and growth. If you properly select and care for your new addition, you can count on a lifetime of shade and beautiful fall seasons. Selecting the correct tree for your yard and your needs coupled with planting it is quite a task, so save an afternoon for research and a Saturday for selecting a spot and planting.
When you decide to plant a tree, you'll first need to pick what kind of tree you want. What do you want to get out of the tree? Noise protection, shade, fruit, maybe even a tree fort one day? You'll need to go online or talk to a local garden shop about what types of native trees grow well in your area. You'll also want to research how quickly the tree grows, its clean up and maintenance required, and resistance to disease, insects and drought. Understand the shape the tree will take when it is fully mature, and how long it will take to get there.
Once you know what kind of tree you are going to plant, examine the area you wish to plant it in. Watch the spot throughout the day to note the shade and sun it receives. Dig a 3 inch hole and see what kind of soil is in the area. Watch your prospective spot after rain storms to see if it drains or puddles. Note the kind of root growth your tree will have and if your spot is in close proximity to any sidewalks or driveways it could disrupt.
After you have picked out the perfect tree for that perfect spot, it's time to plant. You'll need a shovel, some gloves, some mulch, a barrel if you wish to move all the dirt, and some scissors or utility knife if the roots are wrapped in burlap.
The best time to plant is spring, before the intense summer heat, but still within the rapid growth season. If you live in an area with a temperate winter, then you can also plant in the fall. You don't want the root system of a young tree to be stressed by extreme temperatures before it has a chance to establish itself.
Start by preparing a hole 2-3 times the size of the root ball (the main section of the roots). You'll want to score the sides of the hole to make channels for moisture the easily flow through. Cut the bag off the or remove it from its pot, and use some compost or manure if available around the root ball as you place it in the hole to help it start its new growth strong. Try and stay away from mega commercial fertilizers, as they can over boost the tree and damage its growth and stability long term. Straighten the tree and fill in the dirt firmly but gently. Spread mulch around the tree, about as wide as its leaves go. This will help with moisture retention. Keep the mulch 2-3 inches from the trunk to prevent trunk rot.
Make sure the tree is getting enough water for the first year. If the soil beneath the mulch is dry, give it some water. Stake the tree if needed for the first year to help it deal with the elements if needed. Keep an eye on the tree for insect infestation and disease as it settles in.