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Weekly Gardening Tips for Your Area


How to Plant a Container Tree

Martha Stewart
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Planting a Container Tree


A container-grown tree is much easier to plant than a traditional ball-and-burlap one. By planting in spring, you ensure that the roots have time to become established before winter’s chill. When you plant a tree, it is better to think of the job as preparing a site rather than merely digging a hole.


1. Using a sharp spade, dig a hole about three times the diameter of the container and just deep enough to let the tree’s buttress, the swelling at the base of the trunk, sit about one inch above the soil surface. Then I add a few shovels of com­post to the soil and thoroughly mix it in to provide a homoge­nous growing medium.

2. To remove the tree from the container, grasp the trunk and slide off the plastic pot. Firmly tap on the container to release any stubborn areas.

3. Container-grown trees must have their roots teased apart to prevent them from continuing to grow in circles. Use a tool or your hands to gently remove the soil and separate the roots.

4. Position the tree in the hole, taking time to place the plant’s best side outward. Backfill the hole using the same soil you dug out.

5. I add Bio-tone Starter by Espoma (available from Home Depot) when I plant a new tree, sprin­kling it around the edge of the root-ball according to the package directions.

6. Carefully prune dead or damaged wood.

7. Water thoroughly right after planting. Sculpting a “water well” as shown above helps prevent runoff so water drains directly into the plant. Provide at least one inch of water each week for the tree’s first season. After its first watering, I apply a two- to three-inch layer of mulch to slow evapora­tion and keep roots cool.

8. Dogwoods are un­derstory trees. As this one grows, it will flower and reproduce, even­tually creating a small colony in this ideal woodland environment.

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