The Planting Guide

A general planting guide from Seed It Forward – how to plant a tree so that it has higher chances of survival.

*First and most important of all: before and during the process of planting take care to protect the sapling’s roots against sun and dry wind. You can achieve this by covering them with a solution made of water, clay and old cow/horse shit, and also by using a moist canvas sack to hide them.

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We start with a hole, which must have a depth of at least 40 cm, or proportional to the roots of the sapling – it should be suitable for their shape and size, but deeper and wider than they would need to just fit in there.

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We propose to measure it with spades: approximate height of two spades deep and about the same width.

This is important due to a number of reasons:

  • To loosen the soil in order to facilitate growth of new roots
  • To replace the lower soil layer – which is most probably clay and/or sand – with fertile soil from the ground surface
  • To better collect precipitations
  • To let the seedling grow in a small deepening – this way its roots get more shade and coolness. This is recommended for the climate with hot and dry summers.

*To make it easier to dig a deep hole, we recommend to make it wide enough from the beginning.

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We also recommend to put the upper, more fertile soil layer to one side, and the earth from the bottom of the hole – it is often clay or sand – on the other: we will use it later to create a terrace.

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*The fertility of soil and its capacity to retain moisture are one of the key factors for saplings’ survival.

Check is the hole is deep enough – the roots should fit in it with reserve, without being broken, twisted or sticking upwards/out.

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When the hole is ready:
1) cut its edges with the shovel, diagonally – this way the fertile soil falls to the bottom of the hole (break it up with the shovel!), and the edges of the hole turn into a crater.
2) using the hoe, make the crater as large as you want – but at least 60 cm in diamenter.

Why do we need a crater? In order to capture the precipitations, to remove roots of surrounding plants, to hold the mulch in.

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Break up the pile of upper layer of soil that you’ve taken out of the hole – with the help of shovel or hoe.

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Place the seeding at the middle of the hole, a little bit lower than the height you’d like it to be at, and start to backfill the hole with the most fertile soil.

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When the hole is filled to the middle, stop for a bit and pack the soil with your feet (left from the left side, right from the right side), carefully, so that you do not damage the roots. The pressure should be applied from the exterior part of the hole into the exterior, towards the sapling. This is done in order to eliminate air pockets that may dry out roots. Then, shake the sapling a bit, to free the roots, check if it is sitting straight in the hole – and continue backfilling.

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At this point it can be more convenient to backfill the hole using a hoe.

Fill the hole until the point when you cover the root flare – place where the trunk meets the root. The soil should be two fingers higher than this place – later, after watering, precipitation and ground settling the level of soil will go down. The root flare should be neither too high, nor too low – in the first case, you risk exposing the roots to air, and in the second one, both roots and trunk are suffering, roots from being too deep and trunk from being underground, where it isn’t supposed to be.

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Finish to fill the hole and, again, pack the soil with your feet.

If you plant on a slope, collect the remaining soil on the lowest part of the hole in order to build a water-holding barrier. If the ground around is flat, pull the soil all around the hole, creating a basin to hold the water and funnel it to the tree roots.

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We recommend to water the trees you plant – even if the soil seems to be moist enough. Water helps the soil to set better around the roots. A good watering means about 5-10 liters – a bucket – per tree.

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We recommend to mulch the tree – fill the “crater” you’ve created with straw, old grass, other mulching materials… The best one, in our opinion, are fallen leaves. The mulch helps to keep the moisture in soil; protects the roots against extreme temperatures; enriches the soil with organic matter and contributes to development of fungal mycelium – thus increasing the absorbing capacity of tree roots.

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That’s it! Now we have a correctly planted tree.

  • Team: optimally, two people.
  • Approximate time: 15 minutes – but it can be more or less, depending on the hardness of soil, size of the hole and power of the person who digs it.
  • If you can, orient the tree’s top and branches towards the sun – in the direction of south.
  • If you are planting precious trees – for example, while creating a garden – then you can enhance their growth by adding some old compost to the bottom of the hole.

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