Tree Planting


Forty plus years and we’re still growing native trees from locally collected seed. Illinois has one of the most varied forests in the mid-west and we try to find the species that not only offer our clients a choice for every habitat but species that will also enrich our local environments. Trees are the cornerstone of the landscape that people identify with as the single most important feature of their planning when it comes to the yard. In fact, planting a tree has historically been one of those events that makes a home yours or after the birth of a baby. It shows that you’re going to be staying there long enough that you are willing to watch something grow. The unfortunate part of this practice is that WHAT people are planting does not seem to be as important as it is to just plant something. Native trees offer all the aesthetic, longevity, positive environmental impact and will not cause detrimental off site invasiveness. Native trees also tend to grow well as a group or community; not crowding out plants that grow in the same habitat as they do. Remember there is a native species for any landscape use as long as you plant it in its proper place.

Tips on planting native trees

• Know your site and plant appropriately. Water loving trees on wetter sites. Sunny sites are not for shade lovers.

• Spacing and the generalized shape guidelines are for the birds. There are no perfect distances to plant trees from each other. 2 feet, 2 yards, 2 miles all are fine and trees will work out their needs. As for shape, look for healthy trees that have a strong leader and undamaged limbs.

• Planting depth is important. Make sure you have found the root flare and placed it about an inch or two above ground level so the tree can regenerate roots in a positive way.

• Trees host tons of butterflies and moths which in turn feed bird and mammals. Planting natives helps local populations in the food web more than any other type of plant you might consider for your yard.

• Water your tree over the first season of it being in the ground, but pay special attention to the first couple of weeks. For every week you do not have an inch of rain then you should be watering 2 to 3 times per week for about 20 minutes or more each time.

• Bigger is not better! The bigger the tree the longer it will take to regain its growing mojo and get back to normal growth rates. A good rule of thumb is for every inch of caliper there is a year of care needed for its recovery. (i.e. 2” equals 2 years of care) And for goodness sake, oaks do not grow slow. Look for most oaks species to average more than 24” a year

Planting Our Trees

  • Hole width should be about one foot wider than the ball, and 10"–12" deep. If you are planting with an auger, the 30" is a suitable size.
  • The planting of the root-bag material requires that all covering material be removed from the ball before planting. This includes the removal of all rope, burlap, nylon bag and “cap” (white nylon on the bottom of the ball).
  • If the root-flare is not visible at the soil's surface, then a light shaving of the soil from the top of the ball is needed. This is done by using a shovel to remove the top inch or so of soil with a very light hand.
  • When the tree (or shrub) is placed in the hole, the top of the ball should rest 1 to 2 inches above the surface of the surrounding soil before the hole is filled. The ball with settle down into the hole on its own. This is to prevent it from being planted too deep.
  • Mulch should be spread around the tree (or shrub) in a ring that is 3 feet in diameter and 2 to 3 inches deep. Be sure that the mulch is evenly spread and avoid donuts and volcanoes. We recommend coarse mulch or wood chips; they work best and are usually easiest to find.
  • Watering is essential. After the plant is in the ground, it should be watered in, about 5 gallons; do this twice. After that, water 10–15 gallons a week for every week we don't get an inch of rain. Do this over the next 8 to 12 weeks during the growing season.

How to remove our grow bag and plant a 15 gallon tree

More and More homeowners are looking to plant trees themselves and often are reticent to do so because the usual tree at 1.5” has a ball 24 to 36 inches across while weighing in around 250 pounds or more. Hardly one person work. We think that we have found an answer for most with our 15 gallon Rootmaker containers. The tree in this video weighs in at only 55 pounds and has a full, if not awesome, root system. So one person can plant it in about 15 to 20 minutes if they’ve never seen a shovel before and faster if they have. The one major issue that we have had feed back on is how to remove it and properly situate it in the hole. We hope that this video will answer all your questions.

Possibility Place vs Conventional Planting with H.O.P.E.

In November of 2012 we had students from the H.O.P.E. (Horticultural Occupational & Professional Experience) program visit Possibility Place. The focus of the program is to expose college age students to different aspects of the horticultural industry. They visit and work at a different nursery/garden center for two days a month for six months. It is hoped that at each stop they learn a little more about what it takes to be a plant professional.

Since we tend to do things a little differently around here we thought it would be nice to show the students the difference between the way we do things and how it is conventionally done. So, we decided to have a contest. The students were divided into two groups of three and were given the task of planting one tree and four shrubs. Now to be fair we chose trees and shrubs of the same size from our stock and stock of a local B&B nursery. The goal was to plant the trees and shrubs at the proper depth and to finish in a timely fashion. IT was great fun for all of us (better for those watching) and the feed-back from the students was very insightful. I hope you find it illuminating.

How to Remove a Rootbag

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