Planting a Tree

I am currently at Marahangia, a permaculture farm in Otoko, New Zealand outside of Gisborne on the east coast of the north island. I have gotten the opportunity to plant a few trees and I thought I would blog about the process since it's relatively easy and a great way for anyone to be able to make a positive difference on our planet.

So the trees we are planting here have been growing in pots, Adam, our host, buys them grafted from a local company. Depending on what kind of tree you have depends on what time of the year you should plant it. Deciduous trees should be planted in winter time when their roots lay dormant. An evergreen tree, which is what we are planting today, should be planted in late spring when it is warmer and the roots won't freeze in the dirt, but before the heat of the summer when it's too hot. However, our tree was ready to be transplanted so we went ahead and did it even though it is late summer. It isn't ideal to do this, but if you need to just make sure to use A LOT of water and plant later in the day when it is cooler outside. 

So to plant a tree you will need a few different items:

  • A sharp spade
  • Gardening fork
  • Bucket
  • A tub of water (big enough to soak your tree in it's pot)
  • Tarp
  • Some kind of mulch 

So the first thing you need to do is soak your tree. It's going to need lots of water to survive!

We just soaked ours in a big trash bin and that worked really well. 

(Note: Adam gets all of his water from rain catchment)

Next thing to do is pick out a space where you want the tree to go! You are going to be digging a square hole that is about three spades wide and one deep so make sure you will have enough room to dig. If the area needs to be weeded then do so so that it will make your digging easier. The easiest way to weed your area is to lay your spade flat on the ground and shave the weeds with the end of it. 

Here is our space!

 

 Future home of a fig tree!  

Future home of a fig tree!  

If you don't want to lose any dirt while digging then lay out a tarp that you can shovel your dirt on to. It also makes it easier to get all your dirt back into your hole at the end by just lifting one end of the tarp and letting gravity do the work!  

So next, start digging!  

 

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You want to make sure that the walls on in your hole are vertical and not slanted, also try and make your corners as sharp as possible rather than being round. I will explain in a moment why this is important. Also, so you know, you are digging a square hole because it provides good drainage so water doesn't collect around the roots. 

 

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Once your hole is about a spade deep the next thing you will need to do is fork the soil so that its nice and loose. You want the roots of your tree to have an easy time making their way through the soil so your tree can grow!  

 

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You will know your soul is forked enough when you can stick the fork all the way into the earth without much effort. You'll notice the lighter color soil means I made it to the subsoil. 

Once all your soil is forked the next thing you want to do is take your spade and cut all four corners of your square as well as a few slots on each side. This breaks up the dirt more so that the roots can more easily make their way out of the hole. This is why it's good to have vertical sides and sharp edges, to make the cuts easier. 

 It is easier to have the spade half way in the hole and half way in the soil. Just push it all the way down and wiggle it a little so there is a nice cut in the earth.  

It is easier to have the spade half way in the hole and half way in the soil. Just push it all the way down and wiggle it a little so there is a nice cut in the earth.  

Then it's time to get your tree out of where it's been soaking and put it in your hole!  

 

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Make sure it's sitting firmly in the hole and that the top of the hole is an inch or so beneath where the tree's base meets the soil it's already in. You want the trunk of the tree to be slightly above the original ground so when you add water the trunk won't be sitting in it and rot.

 

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Massage the dirt a little to get the roots loosened up.  

 

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Then, fill the hole about half way back up with dirt. 

 

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Next, fill the hole with about 3 or 4 buckets of water! You do this because you want the soil to settle, you will notice tiny little holes in the dirt once the water goes down. The water helps take away any air pockets. This is important because if the roots of your tree hit an air pocket they will stop growing. So fill fill fill! 

 

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Once you've put multiple buckets in and the water is totally drained, add the rest of your dirt!  

 

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You can make a kind of shallow bowl shape with the soil because you are going to need to add more buckets of water! The bowl shape helps keep the water in the area where you want it to be, but make sure it is shallow so the trunk doesn't sit in water. Then once again, add 3 or 4 more buckets!  

 

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You will let this sit overnight. When you come back the next day, add your mulch around the tree to help prevent weeds. We also added comfrey plants around the base because they add a lot of nutrients to the soil. Here's a picture of an orange tree I planted a few days ago that is all finished. 

 

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Make sure once your mulch is on and if you want to add some comfrey plants that you again add a few more buckets of water. You want your tree to be totally hydrated to have the best possible chance of becoming a strong, healthy adult. You can also add a plastic tube or tree protector around the base of the tree so that it is protected from animals. 

Now one day, Adam will have some very tasty figs!  

 

I hope you enjoyed this blog and that you take initiative to go plant a tree of your own! Have a beautiful day!  

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