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How to Plant a Tree (for Arbor Day)



“The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

– African Proverb

Every year as the snow melts and the ground thaws, the world takes some time to appreciate the importance of trees. A holiday that sometimes slips our mind, Arbor Day is a global affair of tree planting and celebrating the green life all around us. It’s a fantastic opportunity for your entire family to take part in starting a new life in your own backyard that will become part of your family legacy. Take some time this year and join the celebration by planting a tree of your own.

When to Plant

When should you plant a tree? Just about anytime, with a few considerations. If it is too cold and the ground is frozen, you obviously won’t be able to plant. Also be cautious with trees that are only marginally hardy in the fall season, such as certain evergreens. Check with your friendly horticulturist for details.  

You can definitely plant trees well into the warmer months, but remember that watering is much more important in the summer. On hot weather your tree will become parched more easily and will need to be watered very frequently, which can become time consuming. Late spring really is the ideal time to plant in our area, so plant then for best results.

Getting Ready to Plant

When picking out your new tree at the garden center, it is important to keep your desired plot in mind. Trees can be as finicky as flowers when it comes to sunlight exposure and humidity, so make sure the tree you pick will like it there. Trees are less adaptable to being relocated than some flower species. Your selected tree will become a long-term element of your yard and is the beginning of a long legacy. Make sure that you choose a variety that will mature into a tree that suits your yard and home now and in the future. If you are having trouble with finding the right match, our Garden Centre experts would be happy to help!

The most important thing to remember before planting is to nurture your sapling before it is in the ground. Keep the root ball moist to prevent the roots from drying, and keep the tree shaded to prevent unnecessary exposure and moisture loss.


To begin planting, measure your root ball’s height from the bottom of the tree’s trunk, where it begins to flare outward, to the bottom of the ball. Dig your hole as deep as this height and twice as wide.

Next, you will want to transplant your tree. If it is in a container, carefully remove it and use your hands to loosen the roots delicately before placing into the hole. If your roots are balled, place your tree into the hole, leaving the burlap intact. Once placed, carefully cut away the burlap and bindings. Water the roots and the hole before filling, as it will help with transitioning hydration.

With the tree in place, begin backfilling your hole until about halfway, using the soil you dug out. For the second half of backfilling, lightly pat down the soil to prevent air pockets. Smooth the soil on top, taking care to leave the trunk flare partially exposed. Make sure to leave a small trench around the outer edges of the hole, to help water reach the roots.


Trees are some of the largest plants we bring into our yards, so they also need large amounts of watering every day to help them grow and establish themselves. However, for the first couple weeks, your new tree only needs a hearty watering every other day. Take your time and water deeply to ensure the deeper roots are getting the moisture they need.

After this initial planting and growing period, your tree will only need a deep watering once a week for the rest of growing season, from April until November. While we recommend hand-watering, you can make watering more convenient with a Tree Gator Watering Bag or a drip irrigation system with a timer. You can find both of these at our Garden Center. If there has been plenty of rain, hand-watering may not even be necessary. Check the top 2” of your soil every couple days to help guide your watering. If this layer is dry, add water. If this layer is damp, you can wait to water again.


Mulch has the amazing power to regulate the soil temperatures, reduce weeds, and will keep the moisture in under the surface, near the roots, where it is most needed. Shredded pine or leaf mulch is an excellent choice for a new tree.

To mulch your tree, place the mulch around the tree about 3x the diameter of the root ball you planted. You will want the mulch deeper the closer it is to the tree, no deeper than three inches, but taper it out further away from the trunk. Be careful not to pile any mulch against the trunk. Too much mulch contact could invite fungus and rot. For the correct balance of mulch that is healthy for your tree, imagine its shape like a volcano. Mountain your soil closer to the centre, but leave a crevice in the middle around the trunk.

For as much as they do for our environment, trees do not get the credit that they deserve. Celebrate them this year on Arbor Day, add a new tree to your backyard with these simple steps, and create a legacy for years to come. 

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