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Post-Planting Care: Staking

  • To add stability to the tree, staking may be needed.

  • Nylon tree straps and lodge poles are available at our nursery. Generally, one year is sufficient to keep trees staked. Stakes can remain in place for up to two spring seasons, but often one year is sufficient to keep trees staked. Test establishment by gently moving the trunk and watching for whole tree movement vs. only the trunk flexing.

  • Staking trees allows the newly planted trees to establish a firm root system. You can use 2 or 3 lodge poles, depending on the location and size of the tree. Tree straps attached with wire will secure the tree to the lodge poles, but they should NOT be attached so tightly as to not allow some natural movement from wind and should NOT be tightly wrapped around the trunk.

  • Staking is needed to support new trees in extreme winds following a soaking rain. Be sure to allow some trunk sway during daily winds so strong roots and trunks will develop. This will be necessary during storm events when the wind is blowing and the ground becomes soaked to prevent root breakage and the tree blowing over.

  • Drive stakes inside mulched area for easy maintenance but outside the hole so the stake is sturdy.

  • Lodge pole pine stakes are 50% the cost of t-posts and are easily broken off or removed later.  T-posts often become entangled in roots.

Post-Planting Care: Mulching

Organic mulch provides many benefits to the plants besides adding organic matter that is eventually broken down by micro-organisms and it contributes to positive soil structure. It protects roots from temperature extremes and conserves moisture. It helps prevent grass from competing with trees for nutrients and moisture. It makes it easier to use mowers and weed- eaters nearby without soil compaction or hitting the trunk.

While a layer of plastic sounds like a great way to prevent weeds…it won’t do that! Weeds will gradually grow there anyway. Plastic will make watering very difficult and rain almost useless. It also excludes air exchange causing the soil to sour and beneficial microbes to die. Air and water must be able to move back and forth. Organic mulch allows that.

  • Mulch the tree with 2-4” of mulch to the edge of the planting area, but keep mulch 2-4” away from the trunk. When complete, the mulch should look like a flat donut, NOT A VOLCANO!

  • Keeping the mulch away from the trunk does two things. First, allows the trunk to dry out, preventing a possible decay fungus. Secondly, removes a hiding spot for voles that can chew the bark off near ground level.

  • The larger the mulched area, the less competition during the establishment period. The tree will grower faster and more vigorously.

  • If using pine straw, tuck and roll the edge for a clean and crisp look.


Neither of these images above shows healthy mulch application.

Mulching benefits: Insulates plant roots from heat and cold; conserves moisture; aesthetically pleasing; slows weed growth; adds future organic matter and nutrients to soil; keeps mowers away from damaging the tree; doesn’t create a hiding spot for small creatures like voles to chew bark; and doesn’t keep the trunk constantly damp which may allow a decay fungus to attack the trunk.

Post-Planting Care: Watering

  • Slowly soak the planting hole with water until it is filled up and standing in water. This won’t affect the Bio-Life 800+ drench. Then fill it a second time. This soaks the surrounding area creating good conditions for root growth, plus that area won’t then steal moisture from the planting hole.

  • Then let the area dry out for a week and repeat. A sure method of checking for watering need is to insert your finger into the soil rootball area. If it is dry, it is time to water. If not, check again later.

  • Automatic irrigation systems typically won’t water a tree correctly.

  • Consistent, not constant, watering is key. That will vary with the situation. Florida sand needs more frequent watering than does Kansas clay. These are guidelines for heavier, less sandy soils.

  • Make sure your customer knows how to water correctly. Perhaps give them instructions in writing. Why do a great job just to have the tree die at the last step? 

  • Benefits: Proper watering (consistent not constant) helps create conditions for healthy root growth.

Water tips for your customers:

  • Roots need to ‘breathe’ and frequent watering (like daily irrigation) can squeeze the oxygen out of the soil causing roots to rot and trees to die! Here are some tips for you to leave with your customer to help their plants be successful in the landscape:

  • I WILL NOT water my trees every day even it is hot outside and I am thirsty.

  • I will water my trees only once a week (seven days). If it rains an inch at once, re-start the calendar.

Hand Sprinkler
  • I will water my tree slowly for an hour each time. One-half hour each on two sides with a garden hose set on dribble. Make it a complete mudpie.

  • If I want to kill my tree, I’ll water it every day.

  • If I go on vacation for a couple of weeks, I’ll have someone water my trees once while I am gone.

  • I’ll water my trees for two years.

  • Even during the winter, I’ll water my evergreens occasionally. Those need water when it is warm so the plants won’t desiccate and die.  Watering is about quantity of water going to plants, not the frequency of watering…consistent, not constant.

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