Best Practices


“There are two great times to plant trees:
     The first was 20 years ago – the other is now.”



You’d like to plant a tree.  Now what?  Here are some things you should consider

  • Site Selection – What are the soil conditions?  How much light will the site receive?  Are there utilities or buildings to consider?
  • Tree Selection – Are you looking for color, height, shade?  Does the tree prefer wet roots or dry?
  • Tree quality – Does the tree look healthy?  Good leaf color? Any branch or root damage?
  • Transportation – How will you get the tree home?
  • Planting – How deep and wide should you dig the hole?  What to do with the grass? In a container or a burlap ball?
  • Staking – To stake or not to stake?

You’ll find a wealth of information about Planting a Tree at these websites.

Arbor Day Foundation
Site Selection
Tree selection

Tree People – Step by Step video


“Think of mulch as a temporary forest floor,” says Susan Day, a professor in the department of horticulture and forest services/environmental conservation at Virginia Tech, and the Soil Science Society of America.

Three Inches
When applying mulch, 1 to 3 inches is recommended; three inches is optimal for most of the benefits to be realized.

Mulch should be applied to a minimum 3-foot circle around individual trees. This means a minimum of 3 feet from the trunk to the edge of the mulch (or 6 feet across). Modify this to at least 12 inches beyond the periphery of the root ball for newly planted trees and shrubs, as well as out to the drip line of established trees, if possible. The goal is to maximize the area of soil under mulch that the roots can be encouraged to explore, particularly if on site stresses would normally limit root growth.

Away from trunk
As a rule, keep mulch at least 3-6 inches away from the trunk of young trees and shrubs, and at least 8-12 inches away from the trunks of more mature trees. Don’t mulch at all in wet or poorly drained sites.

Freshen or Replace every 2-3 years
Freshen or replace mulch every 2-3 years. Fine-textured mulches, such as sawdust, double shredded bark or buckwheat hulls should be applied only 2-3 inches thick, while coarse-textured mulches such as nuggets or wood chips may be piled up to 4 inches. If necessary, rake away decayed or old mulch before placing new mulch.

It’s important not to place mulch up to the bark of plants and trees creating a volcano appearance. Bark decay occurs when mulch is left against tree trunks or stems of shrubs for extended periods of time. The mulch causes continuous dampness that will encourage decay, attract insects, fungi and bacteria to feed on the rotting wood. Wood rot can develop and cause the eventual death of trees.


Pruning Your Trees (by Trees Are Good)
Trees Are Good is an ISA web site containing excellent articles about tree care, including mulching and pruning.