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DIY Tree Planting – Not as hard as I thought

diy tree planting, day one

Six months ago, I planted my first tree. It still lives. Here’s what I learned about DIY tree planting.

Earlier this year, my neighbor put her house up for sale. It sold in a day. There is a clear view from her deck to ours. This lack of privacy had not been a problem as she never used her deck. But we figured the new neighbors would, so we thought about ways to provide a bit of privacy. Raising the fence was out of the question, so we considered privacy landscaping, either with shrubs or trees.

We went to a few nurseries looked at various solutions. We thought about columnar evergreens, but that would require several and tend to grow quite tall. Finally we settled on a small deciduous tree, one that would grow 15-20 feet high and have a crown of about the same dimensions. That should give us some privacy between decks during summer, and would be small enough not to detract from the openness of our location.

Originally, I thought that this project would require a professional. My thumb is definitely “not green” and DIY tree planting was something I had never done. So, I left messages with my request by phone and e-mail with five different contractors. None of them ever got back to me. Spring is a busy time of the year for them and my project was very small.

After doing some web research, it looked like maybe DIY tree planting was something I could do. We went back to the tree farms and nurseries and looked around once more. Many of these planting trees would cost between $400-$500 delivered. Finally, at our local Greengate Garden Center and found a solution for $135. It was a Royalty Flowering Crabapple. Despite its name, no apples, just leaves and fruit. And the size was right to fit into a mini-van for transportation home.

We also bought a container of something called MYKE. This is a natural fungus that stimulates plant growth, especially the roots. For under $20 you also receive a five year tree warranty if you buy MYKE with your tree and follow directions properly.

DIY Tree Planting – Digging the Hole

So, I planted the tree with help from my wife and 3-year old grandson. At first, I had thought that I might rent a power auger as the soil in western Canada tends to have lots of clay. But, in the end, I decided to start off with a spade and see how it went. After marking the right spot on the lawn, digging began. The intent was to dig a hole twice the diameter of the root ball, and roughly 18” deep, which was the size of the root ball. After digging about 12” deep, near disaster struck.

For some reason, whoever installed our underground sprinklers had decided to take a shortcut across the lawn. The spade hit the plastic pipe for the underground sprinklers. Fortunately, there was no damage. It is a good thing I wasn’t using a power auger for my DIY tree planting project! So I had to move the planting site about a foot to the left in order to avoid the pipe and leave room for root growth. Hopefully this was far enough.

My grandson helped me dig the hole and plant his tree. Before placing it in the ground, I massaged the root ball with my fingers to loosen the roots. I applied the MIKE and filled in the hole around the root ball, adding some fertilizer. Finally, the base of the tree was encircled with a no-dig tree ring from Home Depot, and covered with some mulch.

Thereafter, the watering began. Every time my grandson came over, he wanted to water his tree. This actually meant watering me, but what the heck. We also measure the tree from time to time. But since most of the first-year growth is supposed to happen in the root system, its visible height hasn’t changed much. Now it is fall, and the tree has lived long enough for lots of leaves to fall off, so I am hopeful all is well. We will see how it flourishes in the spring, or not. For now, I will mark this DIY tree planting project as complete.

P.S. Always plan a role for your grandchildren in low risk projects like this one. A few weeks later, I painted the fence, and left the bottom strip behind the tree for him to paint. And he did a great job!

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