…because “The Simple Act of Planting a Tree” is hardly so simple.
Most of us recognize that any weekend warrior who has jammed a tree into their front yard and managed not to kill it immediately is hardly a tree planting expert. Even the pros, however, will sometimes disagree on the best way to properly plant a tree. My guess is that at some point, you’ve all witnessed matter-of-fact tree planting dogma from a self-proclaimed tree planting expert, often with some pretty obscure ideas and methodologies contained therein.
There are no absolute answers that apply to every aspect of each unique tree planting situation, but if we can agree on modern best practices based on best available science, our trees will stand a better chance of getting a great start to a long healthy life.
Be sure to check out the following resources before you plant a tree:
1. The Practical Science of Planting Trees, by Gary Watson and E.B. Himelick. Whoa! Published in 2013, this is a brand-spanking-new, 250-page manual with full-color photos and dozens of illustrations covering everything there is to know about planting trees. This resource is an absolute must for the tree planting nerd that you know (or are).
2. ANSI A300 Transplanting Standard, part 6. This set of official industry standards for planting and transplanting trees and shrubs is particularly useful if you work for or consult with a municipality. Helpful for developing and enforcing your tree planting contract specifications for City or private development projects.
3. ISA Best Management Practices, Tree Planting. Last revised in 2005, this companion publication to the ANSI standard is a modest investment for anyone who calls themself a tree planter. Keep a copy in the truck for reference in the field.
4. Proper Planting Begins Below Ground, by Jim Flott. This DNR Urban and Community Forestry Program publication describes bare-root planting methods and specifically details the perils of planting trees too deeply. Mr. Flott is an ISA Certified Arborist and consulting urban forester from Spokane.
5. Horticultural Myths, by Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott. Washington State University’s own Dr. Chalker-Scott has spent her career debunking numerous horticultural myths, including many tightly-held but outdated beliefs about planting trees.
6. Not so much the reading type? No worries. Casey Trees, a highly reputable non-profit tree planting organization in Washington, D.C., has done a nice job of translating best practices for tree planting into two short, easy-to-follow instructional videos: Planting a Balled-and-Burlapped Tree and Planting a Container-grown Tree.
NOW GO FORTH AND PLANT TREES! (in accordance with best practices, of course).