How to plant a tree: Tree-planting tips for the home gardener

Planting a tree on your property is an excellent way to increase the eco-friendliness of your home. Find out why, plus get step-by-step instructions on how to plant a tree.

How to plant a tree: Choosing a tree
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If you want to help make a difference for the environment but don't know where to begin, start with your own yard and learn how to plant a tree. It's not only a powerful symbol for greener living, but a practical undertaking to better the earth.

Trees help alleviate storm run-off and soil erosion, cleanse the air of pollutants and dust, and provide shade and windbreaks, which, depending on where they are planted relative to your home, can reduce the costs of air conditioning and heating.

Plus, research suggests trees also provide significant emotional and mental benefit—one study revealed that hospital patients with a view of trees recover faster and require less painkillers than those without, another that teenage girls with a view of a tree through their bedroom window performed better at school. Still, despite all these boons, planting an actual tree sounds daunting. The good news? It's easier than you think.

Step 1: Tree selection
Choose a tree well-suited to your climate. Native specimens are adapted to the particular rainfall and temperature of your location and so will have an easier time thriving. They will also likely have what the neighbourhood birds and other backyard wildlife need to live well.

Consider whether you want a deciduous (those that shed their leaves in the winter) or coniferous (evergreens) specimen; fruit- and nut-bearing trees are also an option. Ask your nursery about the height the tree will reach at maturation, as well as the shape and circumference, and consider what will best fit into your yard.

Step 2: Choose a site
Make sure there are no wires above your tree. If you want your tree to help cool your house, then choose a site on the east, west or south side of your home. A line of trees on the north side will best act as a windbreak during the winter. Try not to plant around underground piping where the roots might cause an expensive obstruction.

Step 3: When to plant
Spring and fall are the best times to plant deciduous trees (though some species, such as poplar and elm, will handle the winter better if planted in the spring). For spring planting, wait for the frost to clear; for fall, plant after the leaves start to fall and before the ground frosts. Conifers can also be planted in the spring, as well as from August to the end of October. Check with your local nursery for the best dates for your region.

Step 4: Planting
• Clear an area about three times the size of the diameter of the root ball. Be sure to remove any weeds, ground cover or grass in the area to avoid competition for water and nutrients.
• Dig a hole two times bigger than the root ball and as deep as the root ball. It's a good idea to rough up the hole in order to improve root penetration.
• Loosen the roots if they are compacted, but make sure to handle with care.
• Set the tree in the hole and backfill with soil and water, removing any air pockets. Make sure that once the soil is settled, the place where the roots meet the stem is flush with the ground.

You're not finished! Without a surrounding forest to naturally care for its needs, your tree needs you to help it grow.

Page 1 of 2—Find more tips on caring for your new tree on page 2

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