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How to Plant a Tree in Your Backyard Full Guide of 2023

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plant a tree in your backyardGardening friend, what better way to make your yard a home than by planting a tree? Whether for beauty, fruit, or shade, a tree invites nature’s splendor into your space. When choosing trees, let your climate and yard guide you – cold-hardy natives like oak thrive alongside tropical imports like banana.

And don’t forget location matters – keep trees away from pipes and wires. Dig deep, wide holes and gently loosen roots before planting. Water and mulch well, and your new arbor addition will thrive for years to come.

Key Takeaways

  • Call 811 before digging to locate buried utility lines.
  • Research the mature height and spread before planting.
  • Dig planting holes three times wider than the root ball.
  • Water deeply at least once a week in the first year to establish roots and support growth.

Choosing the Right Tree for Your Yard

Choosing the Right Tree for Your Yard
You’d be stoked to learn that just one extra tree in your yard can boost your mood by increasing natural killer cells that attack diseased cells in your body by 7%, according to researchers.

When choosing the right shade tree with a mature height under 30 feet tall for your backyard, consider a flowering crabapple or saucer magnolia.

For brilliant fall color, try a sugar maple or red oak, which reach 60-75 feet tall at maturity.

By planting a smaller ornamental tree like a dogwood or serviceberry near your deck or patio, you’ll enjoy fragrant flowers in spring and a welcoming patch of shade in summer.

Thoughtfully choosing a tree tailored to your space ensures you’ll reap the mood-boosting benefits.

Deciding Where to Plant and Avoiding Utility Lines

Deciding Where to Plant and Avoiding Utility Lines
Life becomes more vibrant when you’re surrounded by nature’s gifts, so take a moment to envision where your tree’s graceful canopy will best nurture your spirit.

Before planting, contact local utilities to locate underground lines. Avoid areas above sewer pipes, water lines, or power cables, as extensive roots can cause damage.

For large trees like oaks, allow at least 15-20 feet from buildings, while smaller varieties can thrive 10 feet away. Consulting utility maps beforehand prevents service outages and costly repairs down the road.

With knowledge and planning, your new tree will thrive in the ideal place to uplift your mood each day.

Digging the Hole

Digging the Hole
After pickin’ the perfect spot, it’s time to start diggin’. The planting hole should be 3 times wider than the root ball to allow the roots to spread easily into the native soil.

Loosen the hardpan soil at the bottom of the hole if needed. Roughen sides of the hole, don’t glaze. Save the excavated soil to mix with amendments. Leave a mound in the center to support the root ball.

This gives those young roots room to roam without bendin’ or bunchin’ up. Let ’em explore the surrounding soil and establish with minimal stress. Proper hole size and depth sets your tree up for healthy development right from the start.

Preparing the Hole

Preparing the Hole
Once the hole’s dug, it’s time to loosen the soil in the planting area and mix in some compost to give your tree’s roots the best start. Use a shovel or fork to break up the soil, removing any large clumps or stones. Work the compost into the top 8-12 inches, creating a nice loose planting bed.

For bare-root trees, make a mound of soil in the center to rest the roots on. This will prevent them from drying out during the planting process. The right root prep now allows your chosen tree species to establish quickly and thrive for years to come.

With care and patience, you’ll soon enjoy the beauty and benefits a mature tree brings to your backyard.

Preparing the Tree

Preparing the Tree
You’ve gotta carefully remove any wrappings, stakes, and containers from the root ball before settin’ that baby in the hole. Tenderly loosen up those circlin’ roots with your fingers or a garden fork if it’s a bare-root tree.

Check the plantin’ instructions to see if the wrappin’s can stay on. Otherwise, gently peel away any barriers between the tree’s thirsty roots and the nourishin’ soil.

Make sure to call your local utility companies before diggin’ to avoid accidentally severin’ important lines.

Now your tree is ready to happily settle into its new forever home.

Backfilling the Hole and Mulching

Backfilling the Hole and Mulching
Get the garden hose ready ’cause you’ll wanna give that tree a good soak once her roots are all tucked in.

Gently fill the hole, firming the soil around the root ball. Leave a higher ridge of compacted soil to form a water basin. Eliminate air pockets by saturating with water. A bucket of water per inch of trunk diameter is ideal.

Your gorgeous new paper birch is settling in nicely. Now add a ring of mulch around the tree, leaving space at the trunk to avoid disease. Voila! You’ve created an inviting home for your tree to put down roots and grow.

Watering and Maintaining the Tree

Watering and Maintaining the Tree
Now, after planting, you’ll want to deeply water that tree at least once a week in the first year to help establish those roots and support healthy growth. Adequate watering is critical for your new deciduous tree’s survival and getting that planting job off to a good start.

Before digging, always call 811 to locate any buried lines. When planting, make sure not to crowd trees or plant too close to buildings. Proper placement ensures your tree will grow into a beautiful, healthy specimen.

The best time for planting is early spring before the tree breaks dormancy. With attentive watering and care, your new tree will flourish for years to come, providing beauty, shade, and environmental benefits.

How to Plant a Shrub

How to Plant a Shrub
When planting shrubs, make sure to dig holes 2-3 times wider than the root ball for proper spacing and growth.

  1. Remove all packaging from the root ball before planting.
  2. Check the plant tags for proper spacing between shrubs.
  3. Loosen the roots if the shrub is balled and burlapped.
  4. Backfill with a mix of native soil and organic material.

Space shrubs far enough from structures like the home’s foundation. Leave room between plants for future growth without overtaking the surrounding grass. Untangling and spreading out the roots of burlap-grown shrubs prevents circling roots.

Match native soil with compost when backfilling for nutrition. Well-spaced shrubs with loosened roots establish quickly when planted properly.

How to Maintain a Shrub

How to Maintain a Shrub
Tend your blossoming spirit with care as you would a budding shrub, nurturing growth with gentle guidance.

Fertilize established shrubs in early spring with an all-purpose fertilizer.

Prune out any diseased or damaged limbs in late winter before buds emerge.

Remove suckers and watersprouts that grow from the base or roots.

Inspect regularly for pests; apply horticultural oil before buds open.

A bare root tree benefits from additional pruning of any damaged roots before planting. Don clean gardening gloves and sanitize gardening tools between plants to prevent disease spread.

Shrub care is a labor of love requiring vigilance, but the beauty they bring is payment enough.

Recommended Trees for Your Backyard
You’ll adore how a graceful weeping cherry’s cascading branches bloom with lovely white and pink blossoms, becoming a focal point of tranquility in your backyard.

Consider adding a fast-growing tulip tree for its shade, flowers, and brilliant yellow fall leaves, though site it thoughtfully to allow its expansive roots ample room.

Fruit trees like apple and cherry not only provide tasty treats but also offer spring blossoms and fall foliage.

Smart companion planting underneath with shade-loving shrubs and spring bulbs creates an inviting, multi-season backyard retreat.

Thoughtfully chosen and properly placed trees bring joy for years while helping cool your home and nurture wildlife.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What time of year should I plant a tree or shrub?

You can plant trees and shrubs in spring after the last frost or fall before the first hard freeze. Spring is the optimal time; roots establish well in warm, moist soil. Fall works too if you mulch and water before the ground freezes.

Avoid summer’s heat and winter’s cold. Focus on the right plant, proper planting, and attentive aftercare.

How big will my sapling grow? Should I consider mature size before planting?

Before planting a sapling, research its mature height and spread. Select the right tree for the space so you don’t have to prune or remove it later. Consider how big it will get before choosing a planting spot. Matching the tree to the site will prevent problems as it grows.

What is the proper way to stake a newly planted tree?

Stake the trunk low for flexible growth. Use 2-3 stakes outside the root ball. Strap trees loosely between the stakes with wide fabric straps. Allow some sway to strengthen the trunk over a year before removing supports. Water deeply around the roots.

Mulch but don’t pile against the trunk. Trees properly staked withstand wind and grow strong.

Are all my planting amendments necessary or can I just use native soil?

Don’t go crazy with fancy amendments. The key is to settle the roots into undisturbed native soil. Dig a wide, shallow hole, loosen and amend the backfill. Then water frequently to blend natural soil with amendments as the roots establish.

How often should I prune and train young trees in the years after planting?

When young, train trees with selective pruning in the first three years. Remove dead, damaged, crossing, and rubbing branches to encourage good structure. Conduct light thinning cuts in the summer to develop a strong leader and a balanced canopy.

Proper training when young creates healthy, durable trees that require less corrective pruning later.


Did you know urban trees remove up to 711,000 tons of air pollution annually in the US alone? The backyard provides a prime opportunity to contribute to cleaner air and more sustainable cities by planting the right tree in the right place.

With proper site selection and planting techniques, your yard can provide beauty, shade, wildlife habitat, and clean air for decades to come.

Select trees adapted to your area’s climate, and nurture the root system by digging a wide planting hole, amending the soil, and mulching thoroughly around young trees.

Avatar for Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is a published author and software engineer and agriculture expert from the US. To date, he has helped thousands of people make their yards lush and thick.