Care for Your New Tree
When the nursery stock is received, inspect the root system to be certain it is moist and protected from drying. If the tree cannot be planted within a few days and it is barerooted, heel it in by digging a temporary trench deep enough to hold the roots and one located in a protected area. Place the stem of the tree at an angle in the trench and cover the roots with soil. Water thoroughly and keep moist until replanted. Short term storage of 24 hours or so can be provided by placing the roots system in a container of water.
Standard trees, grafted or not, should be planted the same depth or just slightly deeper than they grew in the nursery row. The soil line will show by a color difference on the stem. Trees grafted for size control should be planted so that the graft site, a slight irregular area on the stem, is above ground level. If the union site is in the ground, the scion will root and a standard size tree will result.
During the planting, do not let the roots dry out. A few minutes of drying wind and sun can severely injure or kill the tree. Also, do not use any fertilizer that will burn the delicate root system at the time of planting.
Dig a hole larger than the spread of the roots. This will vary from 12” to 24” or larger. Separate the sod, topsoil and subsoil in piles. Return the topsoil to the bottom of the planting hole in the shape of a pyramid, put the tree upright over the pyramid and extend the roots outward and downward over the hill of soil. Two people working together make it easier. If you are planting a burlapped rootball, cut the burlap in a number of places to facilitate root growth passage. Backfill with the best soil available, shaking the plant gently up and down and sideways. After the roots are covered with several inches of soil, gently stamp down on it to compress and remove any air pockets. When about two-thirds full, soak with water and add more soil leaving a very shallow bowl-shaped hollow around the plant to trap water.
If necessary, drive a stake into the planting hole at the time the tree is planted. After growth begins, disturbing the soil can damage the root system.
Mulch around the tree to keep down vegetation and conserve moisture. Generally, the mulch should be about six inches deep. A small circle around the stem should not be covered to discourage collar rot and mice or vole infestation. For varmint, mechanical and sunscald protection, a tree wrap or spiral protector can be used.