The period from mid April to early May is traditionally tree planting time in northern Wisconsin. For most people this means either planting trees for forestry or wildlife projects or for residential landscaping.

One often overlooked aspect of tree planting is the need for good site preparation. Trees planted on sites with little competition from grass, weeds, or brush have a much better chance of survival. Competing vegetation takes away moisture from the soil and sometimes blocks sunlight.

Today we’re fortunate to have access to equipment that is specifically designed for cultivation and tilling the soil surface. Mechanical site preparation works well initially and typically requires follow-up work throughout the growing season. Additionally, there are many tried and true soil amendments that are terrific for vegetation control.

Once the site is prepared, most large-acreage or wildlife plantings are completed by hand or machine. Always get the tree roots in straight and spread out as much as possible. All too often tree roots are jammed into trenches or holes with the roots bunched together or with the tips facing upward. Trees planted like this don’t have much of a chance for survival.

Residential or landscape trees are typically purchased as bare root, potted, or balled and burlapped trees. These trees need to be planted in sites suited to their soil and sunlight needs, with proper soil preparation, and then routinely watered. It’s also a good idea to build an earth berm around each tree to retain water. Many trees and plants require watering for two to three years, especially those over three feet tall. One of the biggest mistakes people make is not watering sufficiently and often enough.

Here’s a quick summary of our planting recommendations for healthy trees that will last for years to come:

  • Pick high-quality plants and trees
  • Select a site that suits the trees’ needs
  • Prepare the site by tilling and using soil amendments
  • Keep the area clear of competing vegetation
  • Plant with ample space for roots
  • Water, water, water

We have several ISA certified arborists on staff. Please contact us for all your tree planting questions.