WSU Extension

Forest and Wildlife Extension

Planting Trees and Shrubs

 

 

For additional information on planting trees check out the following:

 

Maintaining tree seedling vigor

Enhancing reforestation success in the Inland NW

Successful Reforestation: An Overview 

Tools used for tree planting and weed control (streaming video)

 

Photo by: Janean Creighton, Washington State University Extension

 

Tips for planting success

Pick the right tree for the space.  Many species can grow to be very large.  If planted in a confined area the tree may become a problem.  Avoid planting large forest or shade tree species in areas with limited space for root or crown growth (close to homes, under power lines, near sewer or water lines, driveways).

Pick the right tree for the environmental conditions.  Many species require full sunlight and well-drained soils and will not survive in shady or wet sites.  Match the species with the site conditions and avoid planting species not suitable for the climate, or those susceptible to insect and disease problems.  Use native trees whenever possible.

Plant at the right time.  Trees should be planted when they are dormant. Avoid planting during the growing season or when the soil is frozen.  In most areas of eastern Washington, good planting months are April, May, September, and October.  Avoid planting on excessively hot, cold, or windy days.

Plant your tree right.  See illustation below for proper planting technique.  Use the natural soil to fill the planting hole and don’t add soil amendments or fertilizer.

Give your new tree a helping hand.  In the forest, control competing brush and weeds around small seedlings.  For ornamental planting, establish a “tree well” and mulch the area around newly planted shade trees.  Mulch keeps weeds down, conserves moisture, adds nutrients as mulch breaks down, and protects trees from lawnmowers and weed trimmers.  It may also be necessary to install protective barriers to prevent wildlife (rodents, rabbits, deer, elk, and moose) from feeding on young trees.

 

How to plant a seedling

Plant when seedlings are in a dormant condition.  Do not expose the delicate roots to cold or wind, this causes the roots to dry out quickly.  Place seedlings in a pail or plastic bag, keeping roots covered with a wet cloth or similar moist material.  Remove only one seedling at a time from the planting container.  Avoid planting errors such as tangled roots, air pockets, foreign objects in the hole, and planting too deep or too shallow. Roots should barely touch the bottom of the dug hole and not pressed against the ground. After planting, provide protection for the seedlings from animal damage by using tubing or bud caps until the tree gets a good start.  Inspect new trees frequently and remove competing vegetation.  Use supplemental irrigation and shade where necessary.  

 

Ten strategies for tree seedling survival

(source: W. Carey, Auburn University)

Do not allow seedlings to dry out. - Ample moisture is the key factor in seedling survival; seedlings must never be allowed to dry out from the nursery to planting. Plant immediately in the field. Remember "if they dry, they die".

Transport seedlings carefully. - Rough handling can damage root systems and predispose seedlings to stress.

Avoid temperature extremes. - Fluctuations in temperature, especially excessive heat, during storage and transport can result in seedling trauma during out planting.

Plant promptly. - Once seedlings are lifted, minimize storage time, especially early in the season and avoid extended transport time.

Do not trim or prune seedling roots. - Seedlings need every single tiny root to absorb moisture and nutrients from the ground. The more root surface, the better the growth.

Do not wash or shake gel from seedling roots. - Gel applied to roots at the nursery prevents drying out during transport, decreases planting shock, and improves acclimation to the planting site.

Plant bare root seedlings after October and before April. - Cooler temperatures are more conducive to seedling survival and healthy growth.

Plant seedlings deeply. - Greater exposure to the soil and its water content - even one-half inch of added depth of planting - significantly improves survival rates.

Use mechanical planting, if possible. - Although slightly more expensive, planting mechanically yields better results and is an investment that pays off.

Do not attempt to plant seedlings that have frozen in the pack. - Freezing irreversibly damages the root system, leading to seedling death.

 

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