Tree Planting Tips

Trees grow in some of my fondest childhood memories – the pine with my tree fort, the maple with my swing, the shady oak, the spruce with the nest I would check for baby doves. As well as memories, trees provide food and shelter for wildlife and prevent soil erosion. They green urban areas, lessen noise and cool city streets. Trees can reduce winter heating costs by up to 15 per cent and lower summer air-conditioning bills, too. Most important, trees absorb carbon dioxide. And early spring is a great time to plant them.

Making the right choice

Before purchasing any tree, ask yourself: Why do I want it (for shade, privacy, fall colour, a focal point, attracting birds, a windbreak)? What is the maximum mature height and spread that suits my lot? Do I want a deciduous or evergreen tree? Determine your hardiness zone, soil type and sun exposure. Consider what may be underground (pipes) and overhead (wires), and, if you’re planting near your house, consult with nursery staff to choose a tree with roots that won’t damage the foundation.

Getting it home safely

Wrap the foliage before heading home, and avoid bruising the bark and compacting the roots in transit, then keep the tree moist and shaded until planting time. 

Planting it properly

Dig a hole twice the diameter of the root-ball and one-and-a-half times its depth, discarding all grass and weeds, then rough up the sides and bottom with a gardening fork. Using triple mix (toss in a handful of bonemeal), fill the base of the hole until the top of the root-ball will sit just above ground level. Gently untangle any encircling roots and prune off any damaged ends, then centre the root-ball in the hole. Continue to fill around it and tamp down firmly, forming a ridge around the edge of the fill to create a water reservoir. If the tree is taller than one metre, stake it at opposite sides, perpendicular to the prevailing wind. Finally, mulch thickly to within 15 centimetres of the trunk .

Watering it well

Water deeply about twice a week for the first three months.

Frankie's fab five native trees

AMERICAN HORNBEAM (CARPINUS CAROLINIANA) The perfect small tree for a wetland or woodland garden. Attractive to birds, butterflies and squirrels, it grows up to 9 metres tall. Hardy to Zone 3. DOWNY SERVICEBERRY (AMELANCHIER ARBOREA) Has white spring flowers, red fall foliage, and berries for the birds. Salt-tolerant, it grows in sun to part shade up to 10 metres tall. Hardy to Zone 4. RED MAPLE (ACER RUBRUM)  Has red fall foliage and grows in full sun to part shade up to 15 metres tall. Hardy to Zone 4. EASTERN HEMLOCK (TSUGA CANADENIS) Thrives in moist soils and part sun to full shade, and grows up to 30 metres tall. Hardy to Zone 3. WHITE SPRUCE (PICEA GLAUCA) A conical evergreen, is salt tolerant and grows in sun or part shade up to 30 metres tall. Hardy to Zone 1. Trees – a truly great investment!  Originally posted in the April 2009 Canadian Living issue and at