How to Plant Trees and Bushes

Start by finding the appropriate area for the tree or bush, paying attention to sun and water requirements. The key to success with any plant starts in the roots.  Strong, healthy roots need good drainage, aeration and lots of organic matter to grow and thrive.

How to Dig a Hole for  a Tree

Step 1 – Dig the Hole Twice as Wide as the Pot

Dig the hole for the plant twice as wide as the container and not quite as deep as the container or root ball. When you remove the plant from the pot, the top of the soil on the root ball should be slightly above the grade of the surrounding earth. In heavy clay soil, we recommend that 25% of the root ball be above grade. Keep the soil nearby – you’ll need it to refill the hole. Remove the plant from the container and place into the new hole.

Step 2 – Remove the Plant from Its Container

Remove any twine, rope, straps, burlap or wire basket from around the root ball, being careful not to damage the bark. Using your hands gently loosen the roots from the root ball, and cut off any circling or matted roots. This allows the roots to start growing outward and downward into the soil. Plants become “root bound” in the pot, which means they are tightly twisted around each other. Loosening the roots is an essential step for plant growth. Make sure the root flare is visible above the existing grade (see image at top of page).

How to Plant a Tree
How to Amend the Soil for a Tree

Step 3 – Backfill the Hole with Soil and Max Mix

Backfill the hole with a mixture of 50% native soil (the soil you dug out of the hole) and 50% Uncle’s Max Mix premium landscapers mix. Max Mix serves as a nutrient-rich growing medium, and blending it with the native soil gives the plant a transition zone where it can adjust to the native soil. Remove any air pockets while backfilling by tamping down with your foot periodically or by watering the hole incrementally as you fill it. The plant’s roots will not be able to grow through any air pockets that exist in the soil, so it is vital to remove them. Very little backfill should be on top of the root ball.

Step 4 – Cover the Plant Area with Mulch

Next, cover the newly planted tree or bush with mulch, ensuring that the mulch stays at least 3-4 inches from the trunk of the plant. Mulching keeps the sun and wind from drying out the top of the root ball and also helps prevent weeds and grass from growing on top of the root ball.

See Related: Types of Mulch

How to Mulch a New Tree
How to Amend the Soil for a Tree

Step 5 – Stake the Tree 

To give the new tree support, stake the tree to protect it from the prevailing winds, which in our part of the world come from the south. Drive the stakes into firm, undisturbed soil. Run the support wire through a protective tube or strap so that it doesn’t damage the tree. The tree should be tethered to the stakes with adequate tension to allow some free movement in all directions, while preventing it from falling over in heavy winds.. Remove all stakes, wires and straps after the first full growing season.

Step  6 – Water and Feed the Plant!

The final step is to fertilize and water the plant immediately after planting. Use Uncle’s Root Accelerator as a fertilizer for all newly planted plants. This fertilizer is designed to feed the root system of the plant, rather than promote top growth. The plant needs to develop a strong root system during the first year so that it can feed itself in the future.

How to Fertilize a New Tree

Watering will be essential for the success of the plant. We recommend the 3-2-1 approach to watering. Water deeply 3 times per week the first week, 2 times the second week and once a week thereafter. For example, if the root ball was in a five gallon container, watering deeply means putting at least five gallons of water on the plant each watering. Come in and ask our experts for more information about watering your new plants.

Uncle's Root Accelerator

Root Accelerator Dilution Chart

Pot Size / Caliber Gal. of Water oz. of Accelerator
#1 1 3
#2 2 6
#3/5 5 15
#7 7 21
#10-25 10 30
1.5" 10 30
2"+ 10 30


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