Tree Care and Frequently Asked Questions

Caring for your newly planted tree can be intimidating if you're not sure how to. Read this page for tips and tricks to help your tree re-establish its root system, and look happy and healthy all year round!

Tree Care

"How often should I water my tree?"

  • Newly planted trees should be watered thoroughly the day they are planted. 
  • After the initial watering, trees should be watered 3-4 times per week beginning in May, until the leaves begin to change colour in the fall. Water less during the cool months, and more often during periods of excessive heat/ lack of rain.
  • Take natural rainfall into account. If it rains substantially for 2 or 3 days in a week you may not need to do any extra watering.
  • If you're not sure if your tree needs to be watered, dig a small hole next to the root ball about 4-6 inches deep. If the soil is dry, the tree needs to be watered, but if the soil is damp or wet, don't water for a day or two to allow the ground a chance to dry out. Remember, it is possible to drown a tree by over watering it!

"How much water does my tree need?"

  • Exactly how much water your tree needs depends on the size of the tree- larger trees require more water.
  • A good rule of thumb is to turn your garden hose on a trickle, and leave the hose at the base of each tree for 8-10 minutes each. If the water is flowing fast enough that it disturbs the soil, turn the flow down a little. 

"Should I fertilize my tree?"

  • Fertilizing your tree will give it the best chance of survival after planting, but it is important to choose the right mixture to not only keep the leaves looking healthy, but also promote root growth. We recommend buying a fertilizer with a mixture in the 10-10-10 to 15-15-15 range. The first number (Nitrogen) promotes above ground growth, the second number (Phosphorus) promotes root growth, and the third number (Potash) promotes both. Many lawn fertilizers are heavier on the nitrogen and lighter on the phosphorus and potash. We do not recommend any specific brands, any generic fertilizer from any hardware store or nursery will work, as long as the mixture is correct.
  • Fertilize your tree once a month beginning in April (or after the snow has melted if there is still snow in April) until September. There is no need to fertilize once the leaves start changing colour, as the trees are going to sleep for the winter, and will not absorb anything.
  • If using a granular fertilizer, stand 5 feet away from your tree and throw one hand full at the base of each tree (please wear gloves!). If using a water-soluble fertilizer, follow the instructions on the package regarding mixing. 
  • It is possible to over fertilize, so when in doubt, follow the instructions on the package!

Tree Health Questions

"The tree we planted last season doesn't appear to have grown at all since it was installed"

  • This is perfectly normal. For most species of tree, the first year or two after planting, trees will focus most of their energy on re-growing their root system, rather than above ground growth. Follow our fertilizing instructions above and you will start to see noticeable above-ground growth within a year.

"The leaves on my tree are turning red/orange/yellow and falling off much earlier than other trees"

  • When trees are dug out of the ground and transplanted, they experience quite a bit of stress. It is normal for a deciduous tree to begin losing its leaves in the fall earlier than other more established trees around it. 
  • As long as this is happening towards the end of August or later, this is perfectly normal. It is the trees way of protecting itself so it can survive the winter. Be sure to apply fertilizer in the spring once the snow has melted to give the tree the boost it needs to flourish next season. 

"The leaves on my tree are turning brown and wilting- not changing to fall colour first"

  • This one is a little more complicated. If the leaves are staying green and wilting, chances are the tree needs to be watered. Water your tree, but do not give it extra water, because.....
  • If the leaves are turning brown and wilting- but not falling off the tree, this is a sign that the tree is drowning. Unfortunately, if it makes it to this point there is not much that can be done, aside from stopping all watering and hoping the tree sprouts new buds in the spring. Be sure to follow our watering instructions above, and when in doubt, dig a hole and check how moist the soil is before watering. 

"There are needles falling off of my coniferous tree, but only on the inner branches"

  • While coniferous trees hold their needles through the winter, they do in fact lose their inner needles each year, usually in the fall, but depending on species this can happen at other times during the year.
  • Due to the stress of being dug, this will likely be more noticeable on a tree the first year after planting. 
  • As long as the outer part of the branches remain green, there should be nothing to worry about.
  • Even after the first year, you may notice there are years where the inner needles drop more than others. This is perfectly normal, and is commonly due to weather conditions causing stress to the trees. 
  • There is one exception to this: Tamarack (or Larch) trees are a coniferous tree that actually turn yellow and lose all of their needles each fall.

"My deciduous tree is growing new branches near the bottom of the trunk"

  • Trees that are experiencing stress will try to grow new branches closer to the base of the tree, these are called "suckers". Suckers should be removed early after they begin to develop. This can be done with any pair of hand or pruning sheers. 
  • If you do not remove suckers, the tree may focus more of its energy growing those branches than the pre-existing upper branches, and you can end up with a misshapen tree.
  • Some species, like honey locust are especially bad for sprouting suckers each year. 
  • Removing suckers does not harm the tree, and encourages the tree to focus its energy on growing the already established upper branches.

Tree Pick-up and Planting

"I am coming to pick up a tree myself, what do I need to bring with me?"

  • If you are picking up a tree from our nursery to plant yourself, you will need to bring several things with you to transport the tree safely:
    • Bring a vehicle or trailer that can accommodate the size of tree you are purchasing. Most of our trees are quite heavy and require a crane to load them- we are unable to place trees in cars, SUVs, covered trailers or cargo vans. Please bring a pick-up or flat bed truck, or a trailer that has no roof for best results!
    • Bring a tarp to cover the leaves/branches of your tree. If you transport a tree at highway speeds without covering the branches, you risk giving the tree wind burn, which will affect the growth, and potentially kill the tree if it is bad enough.
    • Bring a red flag to tie to the back of the tree if it will be hanging over the back of your truck or trailer. Police can issue a ticket if you are overhanging more than 3 feet and do not have a flag.
    • Bring ratchet straps to strap the root ball to your vehicle. If picking up multiple trees, you will need one strap for every 2-3 trees, depending on size of root ball.

"If I plant the tree myself, what kind of warranty is there?"

  • Unfortunately, we cannot offer a warranty on trees not planted by our staff. 

"Do I need to cut the wire basket and ropes off of the root ball?"

  • Simply put, no, you do not!
  • Older planting diagrams will say to cut off all ropes, the top third of the wire basket,  to pull the burlap off of the top of the root ball, and to stake the tree to prevent it from blowing over. 
    • These drawings are based on older practices, using different materials than we do now. 
    • New research shows that staking trees inhibits the tree from swaying, which stops the development of a hormone in the tree that directly relates to the strength of the trunk. Simply put, trees that are staked when younger tend to have weaker trunks than trees that are not, making them more likely to break in heavy winds. 
    • By leaving the root ball intact, the rope and wire basket act as an anchor to help keep the tree stable until it has had a chance to regrow its root system, while still allowing the tree to sway enough in the wind to cause it to create the hormone that strengthens its trunk.
    • We only use biodegradable, untreated rope and burlap, guaranteed to disintegrate within 2 years.
    • If you buy a tree from another nursery, and the root ball is tied with plastic or synthetic rope, you will need to remove the rope! If you do not, there is a good chance the rope will girdle (choke) the tree once the trunk starts to increase in size.

"How big of a hole do I need to dig?"

  • You will need to dig a hole that is 6-8 inches wider than the root ball, and that will allow the root ball to sit 2-3 inches higher than current ground level.  While not every root ball is the same, this chart will give you a rough idea of how big a hole you will need to dig. Be sure to measure the depth of the root ball before placing the tree in the hole!
    • Root Ball Size
      Approx. Hole WidthApprox. Hole Depth

    • Be sure to leave the bottom of the hole undisturbed! If you dig too deep, make sure you compact any soil you add to the bottom of the hole. If you do not, the tree will sink over time and may end up too deep, which will lead to drowning or suffocation.

"Should I mulch my tree?"

  • Putting a thick layer of mulch (3-4 inches) around the base of the tree helps in many ways. 
    • Mulching helps with moisture retention, ensuring you tree does not dry out during the hot summer months.
    • Mulching reduces weeds growing around the base of the tree that may compete for nutrients and moisture in the soil.
    • Mulch provides extra nutrients to the soil over time as it breaks down and decomposes.
    • Use an organic mulch, such as wood chips, or a hard or soft wood bark mulch like you can find in most garden centres. Using gravel, river rock or other non-organic mulches do not provide the same benefits. 
    • You should apply a fresh layer of mulch each spring to top up the depth to 3-4 inches.
  • Ensure you place the mulch around the base of the tree, but do not pile mulch up against trunk, creating a "mulch volcano". This can cause moisture to soften the bark, leading to rot which will negatively affect the health of your tree.