How to plant a tree is a question I get asked a lot:  how big should the hole be? what about that burlap anyway? Watering?  how much?

First of all trees are sold in two ways:  in containers,  and balled-and-burlapped. The former is obvious.  The latter means the tree has been grown in a field, dug up and then the root, and a whack of the soil around it, are put into a burlap wrapper.

There is ONE way to plant a tree, and that’s what Derek Welsh my trusty arbourist calls “planting proud.”   You dig a hole that’s wider than the root system, but the same or slightly shallower in depth.  Use the hose to check the drainage (you don’t want it sitting there like a bog—it will kill the tree).  Put the tree in the hole so that it’s slightly above the soil level (it’s proud) and back fill with the same soil you dug out. If you are going to amend the soil, add it to the top of the ground keeping it away from the trnk.

The burlap:  I’ve asked a number of guys  I respect (yes they are all guys) in the hort biz what they do.  And half say don’t touch the burlap;  and the other half say  cut off the top of the burlap and spread it open.  What they all say is:  don’t remove the burlap from around the roots.  The plant will go into shock again,  you’ll lose the mycorrhizae in the soil it came from (these are the microbes that form a symbiotic partnership both depend upon to survive).  The burlap is biodegradable and will disappear eventually. If you move a tree in two years and there still some burlap around, you can take it off.

Water slowly and regularly for the first three months, and in spring if there isn’t sufficient rain. Let hoses run slowly into the soil around the plant so it can absorb the moisture without eroding the soil.  If it’s too fast a blast, you’ll just turn it into sand.

If your landscaper or gardener doesn’t know these things, get a new one.  And don’t have any truck with someone who thinks peat moss is a fertilizer. It’s sterile, and it’s a non- renewable resource (well it takes thousands of years to renew it).  Organic materials such as compost, manure and composted bark will feed the soil. A well grown tree won’t need anything beyond this.

Most nurseries do to not guarantee plants after you’ve had them in your garden for a few months. They don’t know what abuse you’ve been committing (not enough water going into winter, not enough mulch, salt damage, dogs peeing on plants and any other number of egregious sins), so how can they possibly guarantee the life of such a vulnerable thing as a plant?  Some large landscaping companies do offer plant insurance, but the smaller ones don’t.  If a nursery will replace a plant that died over winter, you’ve got an honourable company.  But, on the whole, you are on your own to do it properly.

There are a million scams out there now it’s spring.  Most landscapers and gardening companies are competent. They may not know a lot about plants except for a few which they use all the time, but they aren’t out to clip you. But ask some basic questions about planting techniques, so-called fertilizing (back to peat moss). Buying plants especially woody ones such as trees and shrubs is an expensive proposition. Choose the right one for the right place and you’ll end up with a terrific garden.

FAQS below:

1. The grass: Eco-lawn. Go to for all you need to know and to buy
2. Garden Builder: half compost and half composted pine bark mulch. Great stuff to grow in.
3. Composted Duck poop: 3 by 3 by 3foot bag of Duck compost
Tell them I sent you.