The following information is from the University of Minnesota Extension and can be found by clicking here.

Spring is a great time of year to plant trees and shrubs. The timing enables roots to grow into the surrounding soil before stress due to new foliage growth and high temperatures occurs. Follow these five “best practices” to give your new trees and shrubs the best start possible.

  1. Test the soil. For best long-term results, test the soil in the area where you intend to plant and follow the advice in the Soil Report you receive.
  2. Purchase smaller plants. Smaller-sized plants adjust to transplanting better than larger ones. They require smaller holes be dug, are less expensive, and it’s fun to watch them grow.
  3. Dig a wide hole. Most new roots will grow horizontally from the side of the root ball. Give them plenty of room by digging a hole three times the width of the root ball with the sides of the hole sloping toward the bottom. The depth of the hole need only be as deep as the current root ball. Use the soil you dug to make the hole to fill in around the root ball. If your soil is compacted you may choose to add organic matter, such as compost, to aerate it. If so, keep it to a minimum (less than 20 percent) and be sure to mix the compost thoroughly with the existing garden soil. The idea is to improve, not replace, the existing soil.
  4. Loosen the roots. Containers confine plant roots to such a degree that the roots begin to grow in a circle. To help them find their way out of that pattern, make a few vertical cuts around the root ball and gently splay the roots away from the center. Don’t be afraid to use a knife if you need to cut through a larger root system.
  5. Water consistently. Getting a new tree or shrub into the ground does not signal the end of the job! New plantings require more frequent watering than established trees and shrubs. Don’t sabotage your garden’s success by neglecting this important point. For one to two weeks after planting, water daily. For three to 12 weeks after planting, water every two to three days. Thereafter, water weekly until established. Give your plantings extra tender-loving care for one to two years after getting them in the ground.

After you have completed all five steps, be patient. It may not seem like your plants are doing much, but they are. During the first year, the roots will be far more active than the parts of the plant that are visible above ground. If you’ve followed the above advice and given them great soil in which to live plus consistent watering for the first two years, they will be grateful and will reward you by growing strong and healthy for years to come.

Check out this video from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources:


Watering bags are provided free of charge to those residents that have received newly planted trees. Click here and complete the form to submit your request for a watering bag.

The watering of new trees is extremely important to their future viability, as soil and weather conditions will affect how much and how often you water. Watering deeply, thoroughly, and only as needed will encourage a deep and healthy root system that better withstands environmental stresses. Newly planted trees should be watered 1-2 times per week during dry periods in the spring, summer, and fall months. Trees planted within the last 5 years should be watered once every 1-2 weeks. While mature trees are better able to cope with dry weather, they will also benefit greatly from supplemental watering during extended dry periods. The following options are effective for delivering a weekly watering:

  1. Turn your hose on to a very light trickle and water for 1 hour at a time at each of the 4 corners of the tree.
  2. Wrap a soaker hose around the base of the tree, at least a foot away from the trunk, and water for 6 to 8 hours at a low flow rate.
  3. If you do not have a hose that will reach the tree, you can use a 5 gallon bucket with holes drilled in the bottom to slowly release a total of 20 gallons of water around the base of the tree. Fill the bucket 4 times and let the water drain in different spots within the dripline of the tree.
  4. Wrap a watering bag around the tree and fill it up. They are easy to fill, inexpensive, and available at most garden centers.
  5. Mature trees will require a greater volume of water than newly planted trees, but less frequently. Watering with a hose set to a trickle or a soaker hose in many locations under the drip line for 8 hours or more will provide a beneficial soaking to the tree's root zone.
  6. Monitor potential drought conditions in your area that may affect how much water your trees need. A good resource for drought monitoring is the US Drought Monitor Website.

Check out this video on watering from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources:


Adding several inches of mulch around your new tree is an important step and will help retain soil moisture, moderate temperature, and inhibit the growth of weeds. 

  • Be sure to add 2-4" of mulch, and refrain from piling mulch around the stem of the tree. Additional moisture around the stem will encourage roots to grow and may lead to stem girdling roots, a common cause of mortality in trees planted too deep. 
  • Free mulch is often available at the Ramsey County yard waste sites in Saint Paul during the summer. For availability call: 651-633-EASY.

Check out this video on mulching from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources:


If you choose to fertilize a tree, it is important t keep a few things in mind. Not all trees or sites will require fertilizer, so it is recommended to perform a soil test before any fertilizer applications. Trees do most of their growing in the spring so it is best to fertilize in the fall, after the tree has lost its leaves, or in the spring, before the buds begin to develop. Do not apply nitrogen fertilizer in the late summer. This could prevent the tree from going into dormancy in the winter. Water the area well before and after applying fertilizer. Remember, follow all directions carefully, store or dispose of leftovers properly, and do not over-fertilize.

Last Edited: May 28, 2024