I am asked constantly about the planting of trees.  What are the best to choose? how do you do it properly?  How do you  water them properly?

First of all trees comes in two forms:  container-grown;  or balled-and-burlapped.  The former is obvious; the latter means the tree has been grown in a field, dug up and, along with some of the soil it grew in, wrapped in burlap and that is how  it’s delivered to your door.

I’ve talked to several people I respect in the landscape business and half of them say  “Leave the burlap alone.” and the other half say: “Cut off the top and down a bit.”  All caution not to remove the burlap around the roots. It will disintegrate with time but if you pull it off the rootball you’ll be losing not only the soil and its attendant mycorrhizae (the microbes that have a symbiotic relationship with the tree’s root system), the tree will go into shock again.

They also say there is only one way to plant a tree.  It’s what my favourite arbourist Derek Welsh calls “planting proud.”

* Dig a hole the same depth or slightly shallower than the depth of the root system but make the hole much wider.

*Test the hole for drainage by adding water and making sure it all disappears but not too quickly.

*  Pop in the tree and back fill with the same soil you took out of the hole. Don’t go mucking about amending the bottom of the hole (see previous paragraph).  The tree should be  just slightly above the level of the soil (proud).

*If you need to amend the soil, do it on top and keep it away from the trunk of the tree.

Water by letting a hose dribble into the hole very slowly over an hour or so (move the hose so it’s percolating all the way around).  Water regularly for an hour twice a week if there’s no rain. After the first year or so most trees will be able to get along with what nature provides as long as there isn’t a drought.

If you’ve got a landscaper or gardener who doesn’t know these basics, or who believes that peat moss is a fertilizer (it’s a sterile medium and a non-renewable resource that takes thousands of years to rebuild), you might consider hiring someone more knowledgeable.

Most nurseries don’t guarantee plants after you’ve had them in your garden for a few months.  Who knows what egregious sins have been committed:  not enough water, too much water, dogs peeing  on them, and so on. How could they possibly guarantee something so alive and vital?  Some large landscapers offer plant insurance, but most small nurseries and landscaping companies don’t.  If you find a nursery which will replace a plant that died over the winter, you’ve got an honourable company and one that’s probably hanging on by the finger-tips to do so.

There are lots of scammers out there now that spring’s sprung.  They flood the streets with their machines and offers of looking after and “treating” your plants.  Careful. Make sure you are educated enough to be able to ask the right questions. Most landscapers may not know much about plants except from the few they use all the time, but they aren’t out to fleece you. And then there are the rest.