Planting Instructions

Watch a Shockwave animation about how to plant a tree.

1) Choose the right tree for the right location 
ReForest London recommends planting native trees. Native trees have grown in this climate for thousands of years and are better adapted to the stresses of our environment. They also support native ecosystems and biodiversity. ReForest London has a"Choosing the Right Tree in London Ontario" and "Choosing the Right Shrub in London Ontario" that you can bring to the nursery.

Locate the best place or places to plant trees in your yard. Look up. Avoid planting directly under overhead wires. If you can’t avoid them, plant trees that remain smaller. Choose a location that allows the tree to grow to its full dimensions. Plant at least 3 metres from a building, and at least 1 metre from driveways and sidewalks. Avoid planting in a space where you may build a deck or some other structure in the future.

2) Dig a hole
Dig a jagged hole 3 times the diameter of the root ball or container and the same depth as the root ball or container. Dig an "ugly hole", that is, one that is not smooth on the sides. Also, raise the bottom of the hole slightly higher than the surrounding area. This allows water to disperse, reducing the possibility of water pooling in the planting zone.

3) Place tree and cover
Carefully remove the plant from the container - avoid pulling by the trunk. Once removed from the container, check the roots. If the roots are tightly compressed or 'potbound', use your fingers or a blunt instrument (to minimize root tearing) to carefully tease the fine roots away from the tight mass and then spread the roots prior to planting. Seat the plant in the hole and back-fill the original soil. Mix in compost if you wish. Fill hole only to the soil level of the original container. Compress soil gently using your hands (don't stomp it).

4) Water your trees, especially newly planted trees.
The most important gift you can give to a new tree is water. Like all plants, trees need regular water. Newly planted tree that are trying to establish themselves and recover from the shock of being transplanted are especially suspectible to dry conditions. Watering a tree slowly and deeply is best. One easy way to do this is to turn a hose on very low and leave it at the base of the tree for 30-60 minutes, or use a soaker hose coiled around the "drip line" of the tree. Another way is to drill 2-3 (3/8 inch holes or less) in the base of a 20 litre (5 gallon) bucker. Fill the bucket and walk away, allowing the water to drain slowly into the soil. Please view more details watering instructions on our How to Water a Tree page. 

5) Keep the weed whacker and lawn mower away from the base of your trees.
One of a trees worst enemies is a weed whacker, or whipper snipper. These machines can easily remove the bark from the base of the tree, especially newer trees with more tender bark. The tree's bark protects the tree from insects and disease, but the layer just beneath the bark, the cambiun, is what transports water and nutrients up to the branches and leaves. Exposing this layer damages the tree, girdling it and making it more likely to die. Often a girdled tree dies over a period of several years. Remember not to run into your tree with a lawn mower either.

6) Mulch your trees.

The mulch helps to keep weeds and grass from growing around the tree, retains moisture, and keeps lawn mowers and weed whackers from the tree. Surround your tree with a thick “donut” of mulch. The mulch should not touch the tree, as it can rot the bark and kill the tree. Use at least 10 cm of mulch. Mulch keeps moisture in and discourages weeds. Add new mulch each season as needed.


7) Use care when staking your trees.
There is debate about whether staking a tree is necessary at all. However, if you choose to stake a tree, be sure to do it properly. Iimproperly staking a tree can actually damage it. To properly stake a tree, place two stakes about 1/2 meter on either side of the base of the tree. The stakes should be about 6 feet tall, and should be pounded into the ground a least a foot. Wood or metal stakes can be used. Use twine or wire covered in a plastic hose to attach the tree to the stake below the first branches. Using plain twine or wire can dig into the tree and damage the bark. Periodically check the ties to ensure that they are not damaging the tree. After a year or two, remove the stakes.

8) Prune your tree (if neccesary)
See two related articles:
Pruning basics
Pruning methods

Additional Instructions
There are a few more tree care tips on our How to Plant a Tree page.