Tree Planting & Care
If tree planting is a project requirement of the City of Arlington Land Use Code, planting details are outlined in the City of Arlington Public Works Construction Standards.
All trees have the same basic needs to grow and be healthy. Basic requirements include water, carbon dioxide, oxygen, nutrients, sunlight, appropriate temperature, and sufficient space. Air supplies carbon dioxide and oxygen, soil is the reservoir for nutrients and moisture, and sunlight provides heat and light.
Photosynthesis, the manufacture of sugar by the green parts of the tree in the presence of sunlight, must be able to supply the energy needs of the tree. The strength which a tree grows, known as vigor, must remain high enough to survive disease causing bacteria, fungi, and insects.
- Handling Before Planting
- Preparing the Planting Hole
- Preparing & Setting the Tree
- Other Tips
- Trees should be carefully inspected at the nursery or upon delivery to determine that they meet specifications for the species, and have good root quality, top confirmation, and health.
- They may need to be acclimatized to their new site, a process called hardening off. Both roots and tops must be kept moist and protected from temperature extremes.
- Bare root deciduous trees should be planted soon after being received. They can be held for a few weeks, if kept cool, so neither roots nor buds become active.
- Balled or burlapped (B&B) and container grown trees can be planted almost any time, although it is wise to plant B&B plants soon after they are dug.
- Root balls and containers should be protected from the sun that roots are not injured.
- The hole should be about twice the diameter of the root ball.
- For a bare-root tree, the hole needs to be large enough to take the roots without crowding.
- In most soils, the planting hole should be one or two inches shallower than the depth of the root ball.
- Make sure the bottom of the hole is firm to prevent settling.
- Loosen the sides of the hole with a shovel to facilitate root penetration into the soil.
- Bare Root - prune back dead, diseased, or twisted roots to healthy tissue. Plant in dormant season; keep roots covered and moist before planting
- Balled and Burlap - remove the burlap, twine, wires from around the base of the tree and top of the root ball.
- Container - remove from container and remove matted roots at the bottom or circling the root ball. Loosen the root ball to stimulate root growth into the surrounding soil.
- Position the tree so it will be viewed to the best advantage.
- Turn low branches away from areas of high activity.
- Point the side with the most branches to the prevailing wind in a windy location. If it is a bar root tree, plant the largest root in the direction away from prevailing winds.
- If the top of the tree is not vertical when the root ball or trunk is straight, tip the root ball to bring the trunk more upright.
- Backfill the soil with original soil unless it is very poor.
- Fertilize the planting with a complete tree and shrub fertilizer and water to the full depth of the root ball. Do not put fertilizer directly into the planting hole.
- After the first application, apply fertilizer in the fall or early spring.
- The most important tree nutrients are:
- Nitrogen - rapidly depleted in soil and responsible for maintaining green color and normal twig growth
- Phosphorus - assists in the maturation of tissues and stimulates root growth, important in flower, fruit, and seed production
- Potassium (K-also known as potash) - assists in manufacture of sugar and starches, helps tissues mature and heightens flower color
- Consult a tree care professional for the best fertilizer blend and application for your type of trees.
Trees should be watered a minimum of the first two summers until roots are established.
- Avoid tying ropes, cords, wires, or similar devices around trees. As the diameter of the tree increases they can constrict the phloem, tissue that lies just inside the bark, and shut off the flow of sugars and water. This will eventually kill the tree.
- Protect trees from drowning in to much water, being exposed to weed or feed type lawn chemicals, or de-icing salts.
- Protect tree trunks from equipment such as lawnmowers, weed eaters, or construction equipment. Any tear or gouge in the bark permanently destroys the cambium, a microscopic zone of cells that specialize in cell division, in that area and disrupts the transport of nutrients through the phloem. It also provides an entry point for decay organisms.
- Soil compaction is very damaging to trees; it limits the availability of air and water in the soil and restricts the growth of roots. It is much easier to prevent than correct. Limit pedestrian or vehicular access around your trees.