By Gene and Katie Hamilton
Before You Begin
Be careful transporting the tree by laying the root ball gently on a truck or van bed. Then move it all the way to the front so it will not slide around if you have to brake quickly. In an open truck, cover the tree with an old blanket to shield it from wind and secure it so it can't blow off. If you don't protect the tree from the wind it will loose moisture through its leaves. Transport the tree from the truck in a wheelbarrow being careful not to damage its branches.
Step 1 : Dig the hole
The roots of a tree grow more horizontally than vertically so dig a hole that's as deep as the height of the root ball and at least three times as wide. As you dig the hole, break up the soil so it is loose and crumbly and pile it to one side. Test the hole for drainage by filling it with water. It should drain overnight or at least a half an inch every hour. If it doesn't, choose another location with better drainage for the tree.
Step 2 : Set the tree in the hole
Set the tree in the center of the hole. Make sure it is on a sound footing and standing up straight. Cut away or remove the top half of synthetic burlap or the sides of the container to expose the root ball. Leave the wire basket surrounding the root ball in place because roots will grow through it. Fill in around the root ball with soil, occasionally sprinkling in water to prevent air pockets from forming. Tamp the soil down around the ball so the soil level is about three-quarters the depth of the hole. After water drains finish filling the hole with soil and mulch around the base of the trunk. The top of the root ball should be at grade (the level of the soil.)
Step 3 : Smooth the surface of the soil
Use a grading rake to smooth the soil and a 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch that helps conserve moisture and reduces the growth of weeds.
Step 4 : Protect the tree
To protect the tree trunk from a stray lawn mower and secure the root ball, use two upright stakes secured in the ground and to the trunk with flexible ties.
Step 5 : Encourage its growth
Water the tree frequently and fertilize the soil around it. Also keep the area around the tree free of grass for its first three years.
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