Planting and Care

Care After Receipt of Trees

*Be sure to protect your trees from freeze before planting.

Your trees need to be stored in an area where they will not freeze. If the roots of the trees freeze, before they are planted, the trees will die. Trees should also be stored in an area where the temperature is not above 50 degrees for more than a few hours a day. Warm temperatures will cause the trees to break dormancy and begin to bud, shortening the amount of time that they can be stored before planting. If the trees begin to bud before planting and then are exposed to freezing temperatures, even after they are planted, the buds may die. This causes the tree to use more of its stored energy to bud again and the tree may not have enough energy left to become well established and survive.

Once you receive your trees, check the trees for damage, and verify that the trees you received match your order. We bundle like trees together and label them with the type and quantity to ensure that we fill the order correctly and to help you verify that the order is correct. The roots of the trees will have moist peat moss, hydrogel, or a mix there of around them and be wrapped in plastic. The trees can be stored like this for up to 10 days including the shipping time. We suggest that you open the root packaging outside. It can be messy.

After you open you trees' root packaging, it is helpful to soak the roots in water to allow the tree to hydrate. One-year-old trees should soak for 2 to 3 hours. Two-year-old trees should soak for 3 to 4 hours. The water needs be close to the same temperature as the trees in order to avoid shocking the trees. When you remove the trees from the water check for and remove any damaged roots.

Your trees are now ready to plant. If you need to store the trees for a few days before planting you may repackage them in moist peat moss, as they were when you received them. Make sure that the peat moss is moist, not wet. If the roots stay wet for too long they will begin to rot.

If you need to store the trees for more than a few days or there is a possibility of exposure to freeze, the trees need to be heeled in. To heel in the trees, place the tree in loose, moist soil at a 45-degree angle. Be sure the roots are completely surrounded with soil. Keep the soil moist until you can plant the trees, but be sure to plant the trees before they begin to break dormancy. If the trees do begin to bud, plant them as soon as possible.

Site Preparation

Planting trees correctly is one of the most important aspects for establishing healthy trees. The first step is to make sure that the site you have selected is suitable for your trees. We provide the site requirements for each type tree we sell on our product page for the specific tree.

The second step is to prepare the soil for your tree. The hole needs to be about twice as wide and one and a half times as deep as the root ball. The soil that you will refill the hole with needs to be well broken up with few clods in order to ensure that there are no air pockets surrounding the roots. Roots exposed to air will die and may cause the entire tree to die.

Potting mix or potting soil may be added to the fill dirt to enhance poor or weak soils. However, these supplements should not be more than 25% of the soil used to and need to be mixed in well. The roots of the tree will try to find the best soil to grow into. If there is a large change in soil quality between the soil in the hole and the surrounding soil, the roots will not expand well into the surrounding soil and will wrap around the tree. This can lead to the death of the tree as the roots grow and begin to constrict around the tree.


To plant your tree, fill and pack soil into the bottom of the hole until the roots just touch the bottom and the tree will be planted as deep as it was at the nursery. Then, begin filling in dirt around the tree ensuring that the roots are spread out and that the tree is straight.

Fill and pack the soil in layers to remove as many air pockets as possible. Continue until the soil is level with the surrounding ground.

Once the hole is filled, water the tree well. Use about 1½ gallons of water for one-year-old trees and 2½ gallons for two-year-old trees. This will settle the soil and remove most of the remaining air pockets. It will also leave a slight depression around the tree. You may add more soil to bring the level even with the surrounding ground. However, leaving a depression around the tree will help reduce water runoff if you water the tree during the summer.

At this point, install ground cover and/or mulch if you have decided to use it. The ground cover/mulch should cover a 2½ to 3 square foot area around the tree and will help reduce weed competition and conserve soil moisture.

*If you are using a dark colored ground cover it is helpful to put mulch on top of it. During the summer, the sun will heat dark ground covers causing the ground underneath to heat up, speeding up evaporation.

Finally, install a tree protector. If you are using a ground cover the bottom of the tree protector should rest on the top of the cover. If you are using mulch only, the bottom of the tree protector should be 1 inch under the ground.

Spacing Trees

Trees need to be planted far enough apart to allow for growth without competing for nutrients, but close enough to ensure nut fertilization. At maturity Sawtooth and Nuttall oaks will need about 30 feet between the trees. Most other oaks need about 40 feet.

The most cost effective and least labor-intensive option is to plant young trees at these spacings. Alternatively, trees may be planted closer together and thinned as needed for spacing.

The second method of tree spacing requires more work but provides some benefits. Sawtooth and Nuttall oaks will begin to produce acorns long before they need to be thinned. If they are planted closer together, with the intension of thinning in the future, you will have more trees producing acorns and therefor more acorns in the early years. Additionally, when the time comes to thin the trees, you can select the weaker, less productive trees for removal.

1st Year Care

Do not fertilize your trees during their first growing season. Fertilizing during this period will cause the upper part of the tree to grow more quickly than roots, stressing the tree.

To help ensure 1st year survival of your trees it is important to water each tree with 2 to 3 gallons of water each week during dry spells.

Future Care


The best way to determine how much and what type of fertilizer to use on your trees is to have soil sent off for testing. County or state agencies often offer this service. There are also companies that can be found online that offer soil testing.

If you do not wish to have a soil test done, a general rule of thumb is to apply ½ pounds of a complete fertilizer, such as 8-8-8 or 13-13-13, per ½ inch of trunk diameter measured at a point 4 feet above the ground.

Fertilizer should be applied in late winter or early spring in order to give the fertilizer time to get into the soil before the tree begins to grow in the spring. Spread the fertilizer evenly around the drip line (the edge of the branches) of the tree.

*Trees should not be fertilized in the first 6 months after planting.


Occasionally, it may become helpful to prune your trees. Damaged or diseased limbs should be removed, and lower limbs can be removed in order to mow or drive near the trees. Double trunks can lead to poor form and week trees but do not have to be removed. If you decide to remove one of the trunks, choose the smaller, weaker trunk. Trees should be pruned in late winter while the tree is dormant.