I used to think planting a tree was as simple as making a hole and putting the tree in. Now, I’ve come to realize, proper tree-planting is an art. To help other budding tree-planters out there, here’s a step by step run through of how to plant a tree properly.
Step 1: Gather your tools.
Step 2: Select your tree.
Step 3: Make a hole.
The hole should be 4 x the size of the bag holding the tree. It should be deep enough to cover the bag.
When digging the hole, make sure to keep the topsoil and subsoil in separate piles.
Step 4: Add some topsoil and subsoil into the hole and break it up.
Step 5: Add poop (usually cow manure).
Step 6: Mix the poop and earth until all the clumps are gone.
Step 7: Remove the bag from your tree very carefully.
You can try to pull the tree out of the bag so you can reuse the bag, but if the root ball sticks to the bag its better to cut the bag off. If you try to shake the tree too much to get it out, it might damage the roots and the tree might die. So be gentle at this stage. Also important is to tease some of the roots out of the root ball to encourage them to grow outwards. Otherwise the tree might get stunted.
Step 8: Make the right size hole to put in your tree.
Step 9: Cover with soil.
Step 10: Step on the soil.
This is very important to prevent air pockets around the roots. If the roots stay in contact with air, they can die. Pressing on the earth compacts the soil around the roots, pushing out the air.
Step 11: Use the leftover subsoil to make a berm around the planted area to help hold water.
You can also make a depression on the inner side of the berm for a swale seepage effect.
Step 12: Mulch Mulch Mulch!
Mulch simply means adding organic matter (usually a mixture of fresh greens, such as chopped weeds, which provide Nitrogen, and browns, dead organic matter such as dried leaves, which provide Carbon). These will decompose like compost and become natural fertilizer for the tree.
Mulch also aids in water retention and reduces evaporation. Very important in hot countries like Thailand!
Make sure to leave a space between the mulch and the trunk of the tree. If the mulch is right up agains the trunk, when the mulch decomposes, it can cause the trunk to rot too. So leave a hand’s breadth between the mulch and the trunk.
Step 13: Add compost!
For the real tree lover this step is the icing on the cake 🙂
This is really giving your tree that extra boost. Here we added worm castings and compost.
With all this love and care your trees should make it longer than you! The 30 minutes you spend planting a tree will provide you with shade, fruit, medicine, etc for the rest of your years and generations to come. That’s a pretty good return for your investment in time…. Bill Mollison says that reforestation truly is the last and ultimate expression of our humanity…. Enough said 🙂