The Q&A Archives: planting new trees

Question: just purchased swamp birch in a pot. How should I prepare the ground to plant? Trees are maybe 14' tall, how do I stake them? How often should I water and fertilize? Is there anything specific I should know about this type of tree?
Thank you.

Answer: Your new tree should be planted as soon as possible. Dig a hole the same depth and slightly wider than the nursery pot and rough up all the soil in the hole. Then unpot your birch and set it in the hole, backfilling with the soil you took out of the hole. The tree should be at the same soil level as it was growing in the pot. Water it well to help settle the soil and then make a watering basin or watering well by mounding up a few inches of soil all around the tree, about 12 inches out from the trunk. Plan to water deeply once each week during the growing season by filling the well with water, allowing it to drain and then filling it a second time. This will concentrate the moisture directly over the root mass and allow it to trickle down, wetting the entire root system.

As for staking, trees that are allowed to sway with the breeze usually develop a more extensive anchoring system as the roots spread out. However, if it is planted in a windy area, you might want to stake it. Here's how: You'll need 3 stakes (metal or wood, about 10-12" long) and some wire. You'll also want some rubber tubing (available at Home Depot) or a few lengths of old garden hose to string over the wire to protect the bark of your tree. Pound the stakes into the ground 4-6' from the trunk of the jacaranda, in a triangle. Each of the stakes will be individually attached to the trunk with the protected wire so the stakes should be equal distances from each other. Attach the wire firmly to the stake, wrap it around the trunk 3-4' from the ground (be sure the tubing is situated so it keeps the wire from digging into the bark), then take it back to the stake, wrap it around the stake and then wrap the end of the wire around the first wire (the one that's pulled tense up toward the tree trunk). Do this with all three stakes, making sure there's equal tension on all wires and that they are firmly attached but not so tight as to pull the tree in any single direction. There should be a little play in the wires, so the tree can move a bit, but not too much play. Be sure to check the loops around the trunk every month or so and loosen when necessary so they won't make marks in the bark.

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