Time to plant trees


UC Master Gardeners

SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY, CA – all is a good time to plant new trees, because the cooler weather gives them some time to become established before winter sets in. Trees are the backbone of the garden, and the type of tree and location you select should be chosen very carefully.


Choose a good location and tree

Consider soil quality, water quality and availability, drainage, and other conditions before selecting a planting location and the species to grow there. Determine proximity to structures, pavement, overhead lines, and underground utilities that may be damaged by growing roots. Consider the mature growth size to avoid excessive amounts of labor and expense in maintaining it at a size less than it is meant to be.

Plant properly

Before planting, mark out a planting area that is at least two to three times the diameter of the root ball. Mix the soil well within this area to the depth of the plant’s root ball. Dig a hole and set the plant on settled ground in the center of the hole. Make sure the top of the plant’s root crown is level with or slightly above surrounding soil. Avoid poorly drained areas or places where water frequently collects. Deep planting favors root and crown diseases. Planting too shallow leads to root damage from exposure and excessive drying.

Remove the container, cut any wires or rope around the root ball, and place the plant in the hole. Gently spread roots and cut any broken ones. Do not plant if it is extensively rootbound. Backfill the hole after properly positioning the plant and preparing the roots. Settle the soil after planting by watering. Keep a four foot diameter or larger area around the trunk free of turf or other vegetation.


A young tree will develop a sturdier trunk if it grows unsupported and can sway in the breeze. Stake it only if it is planted in an extremely windy location or if the main trunk is too weak to stay up-right on its own. Use ties that won’t bind or cut into the bark, such as wide strips of canvas or rubber; fasten each tie around the tree and both stakes in a figure-8 pattern. The tree should be able to move an inch in either direction.

To figure out where to attach the ties to a weak trunk, run your hand up the trunk until you find the point where the top no longer flops over. Cut off the stakes an inch or so above the ties. In a windy site, a young tree’s roots may need anchoring to keep them in firm contact with the soil; use stakes and ties only a foot above ground level for this kind of staking. Remove stakes after about a year or as soon as the tree appears to be self-supporting.


Young trees develop a strong trunk more quickly if their lower branches are left in place for the first few years after planting; these branches also help shade the trunk. During this time, shorten the side branches only if they become too long or vigorous, pruning during the dormant season or just before spring growth begins. Once the trunk is at least 2 inches thick, begin removing the lower branches gradually, over a period of several years. DO NOT cut the tops off of trees. Topping encourages the growth of branches weakly attached below the cut, which become susceptible to wind breakage.

For more information planting trees call the UC Master Gardener office 209-953-6112 or http://sjmastergardeners.ucdavis.edu

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