How to Plant a Shade Tree Sapling

Mon, August 25, 2014 2:06 PM | Anonymous

A couple months back, the VPA Shade Tree Program donated two saplings to Southwest Elementary School and Aimee Williamson, our program manager, gave a tutorial on how to plant the young trees. 

First, Aimee and the school’s principle, Mr. Juan Sierra, surveyed the open court to find the best place to plant the trees.

Things to consider include the amount of sun received, water considerations such as if the irrigation system will be able to adequately water the saplings (preferably a deep soak to develop deep, strong roots), and how close the tree will be to other obstructions like cement walkways and other trees with deep root systems. 

Once they picked the best location, Mr. Sierra eagerly got to digging a hole large enough to fit the base of the 5-gallon tree (yes, he’s jumping on the shovel).


It is important, Aimee pointed out, to dig a hole deep enough for the base to fit comfortable in and with enough room to add extra soil on top and around the sides of the tree’s base. 

After gently releasing the tree’s base from the plastic container, Aimee instructed how to use a paring knife to loosen the roots so they can better spread out into the ground.

The sapling is then placed in the dug-out hole, ensuring that it is positioned as straight and evenly in the ground as possible.

 Next, using the soil originally removed to dig the hole, Aimee begins to cover the open areas around and on top of the tree.

Finally, she adds compost and mulch to the top surface of the newly planted tree (which was generously donated by Stanford Prescott from Good Things Grow).  Although not required, compost and mulch provide extra nutrients and protection for the young tree.  If you do not have either of these readily on hand when planting your tree, that’s okay--you can add them later.  Notice the large spacing Aimee left around the trunk of the tree- at least several inches in diameter.  This allow for aeration and proper water absorption around the young tree’s base.

Aimme gives a last patting to the tree to ensure it is snugly in the ground.


Because the sapling slightly leans and it is located in a wind tunnel (the school’s court area is surrounded on both sides by tall buildings which channels the air flow directly into the path of the sapling), Mr. Sierra might considered later on down the road loosely staking the tree to a couple of posts inserted on opposite sides of the tree.  Although staking is not encouraged, as it is better to allow the tree to develop strong muscles and roots by supporting itself, if there is strong wind or the tree starts to grow lop-sided, it can be loosely staked to supporting beams.  However, once the tree becomes stronger and/or grows straight, remove the stakes. (Refer to our blog on How to Properly Stake a Tree)

We’d like to thank Mr. Sierra for letting us come to his school and give our first recorded plant tutorial. Also, thank you to our film volunteer Toribio Lacarra Lopez and to Geoff Esposito from the Arizona School Board Association for helping us plant the trees even in your business suit

Good luck planting your own young trees! We are here if you have questions, and a video of this tree planting is coming soon!


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