Tree Planting Guidelines

If new tree planting is part of your landscaping upgrades, remember to take great care when deciding where and what types of trees to plant. Follow these simple guidelines to ensure your landscaping eliminates potential public safety hazards and reduces expenses for utilities and ratepayers while still enhancing the beauty of your yard. 

Where to Plant

  • Look up and down to determine where the tree will be located in relation to overhead and underground utility lines.
  • Planting tall growing trees under and near overhead utility lines will require your utility to prune them to maintain safe clearance from the wires. This can lead to an unnatural appearance, as well as shorten the life span of the tree.
  • To be certain that you do not accidentally dig into any underground lines and risk serious injury or a costly service interruption, call PWC first. Never assume these utility lines are buried deeper than you plan to dig.
  • In addition to PWC, garden center staff or tree care professionals can help you select the right tree and determine proper placement.
  • Know your zones: Tall Zone – trees that grow 60 feet or more in height; Medium Zone – trees that grow no taller than 40 feet; Low Zone – trees that grow no taller than 20 feet. Knowing the maximum height your new tree is expected to reach prior to planting will help determine where it can be planted in relation to your utility services.

How to Plant
The ideal time to plant trees and shrubs is during the dormant season – fall after leafdrop or early spring before bud-break. Weather conditions are cool and allow plants to establish roots in the new location.

Proper site preparation before and during planting, coupled with good follow-up care will reduce the amount of time the tree experiences transplant shock (TS), which is indicated by slow growth and reduced vigor following transplanting.

These 8 steps will allow you to significantly reduce the stress placed on the tree at the time of planting and prolong the life and health of your tree.

  • Dig a shallow, broad planting hole. Make the hole wide, as much as three times the diameter of the root ball, but only as deep as the root ball.
  • Identify the trunk flare. The trunk flare is where the roots spread at the base of the tree. This point should be partially visible after the tree has been planted.
  • Place the tree at the proper height. Before placing the tree in the hole, check to see that the hole has been dug to the proper depth, and no more. It is better to plant the tree a little high, 1-2″ above the base of the trunk flare, than to plant it at or below the original growing level.
  • Straighten the tree in the hole. Have someone view the tree from several directions to confirm the tree is straight because it is difficult to reposition once you begin backfilling.
  • Fill the hole, gently but firmly. Fill the hole about 1/3 full and gently but firmly pack the soil around the base of the root ball. Remove the string and wire from around the trunk if it is balled and burlapped. Fill the remainder of the hole taking care to firmly pack soil to eliminate air pockets that may cause roots to dry out. For best results, add the soil a few inches at a time and settle with water. It is no recommended you apply fertilizer at the time of planting.
  • Stake the tree, if necessary. Studies have shown that trees will establish more quickly and develop stronger trunk and root systems if they are not staked at the time of planting. However, protective staking may be required on sites where lawn mower damage, vandalism, or windy conditions are concerns. If staking is necessary for support, two stakes used in conjunction with a wide flexible tie material will hold the tree upright, provide flexibility, and minimize injury to the trunk. Remove the stakes after the first year of growth.
  • Mulch the base of the tree. Mulch acts as a blanket to hold moisture, protect against harsh soil temperatures, both hot and cold, and reduces competition from grass and weeds. Some good choices are leaf litter, pine straw, shredded bark, peat moss, and wood chips. A 2-4″ layer is ideal. Take special care not to cover the actual trunk of the tree.
  • Follow-up care. Keep the soil moist, but not soaked. Water trees at least once a week, barring rain, and more frequently during hot weather. Other follow-up care may include minor pruning.