Water Blog - 3 Do’s and 1 Don’t For Tree Planting

News, notes and thoughts from Blue Water Baltimore.



3 Do’s and 1 Don’t For Tree Planting

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Fall is a great time for tree planting:  the soil is still warm enough to help roots grow, but lower air temperatures are less stressful on newly transplanted trees.

And there are lots of reasons to plant a tree:

Nyssa sylvatica, commonly called black gum, can be a great native tree for sites with more moisture. Photo by dogtooth77 via flickr.
Nyssa sylvatica, commonly called black gum, can be a great native tree for sites with more moisture. It offers wonderful Fall color and great wildlife value. Photo by dogtooth77 via flickr.

If you’ve joined Blue Water Baltimore as a tree planting volunteer you may feel comfortable with the best technique. Either way, planting a tree is easy: just follow these four simple steps.

  1. DO PICK A NATIVE TREE. Choosing the right species of tree for your location is vitally important. Pick a native tree that is well adapted to the amount of light and moisture your site gets. We open Herring Run Nursery to retail customers several weekend days each Spring and Fall.

    Dig wide, not deep, when planting trees.
  2. DO DIG A WIDE HOLE. When planting your tree, we suggest digging a hole at least twice as wide as the container your tree came in when you bought it. And if the soil is very compacted, digging the hole even wider can help – as much as 3-5 times the width of the original container.
  3. DO DIG YOUR HOLE TO THE RIGHT DEPTH. Your planting hold should be precisely the depth of the roots on your tree. Digging a deeper hole, or loosening the soil under your tree’s roots, can cause the tree to settle which can keep the tree from growing to its full potential and can cause the trunk to rot.
  4. DON’T AMEND YOUR SOIL. You should not need to add any soil conditioner to the soil around your tree: the existing native soil is almost always the best choice. All research suggests that your tree will be healthier in the long term if you simply use the same soil that was already there. And if, because you are planting in a spot that has no real soil, you need to add something to the tree planting hole then add no more than 1 part compost for every 4 parts of existing soil.  Using more than that will do more harm than good.

For more information, Tree Baltimore has additional tree planting and maintenance tips on their website

If you want a little practice with tree planting, sign up for one of our volunteer tree planting days this Fall.