Expert Tips for DIY Projects

Check out helpful tips from our DIY home improvement experts to create your perfect outdoor space.  It is important to notify JULIE at least two business days before digging.  Every project.  Every time.

6 Common Mistakes When Planting a Tree

So, you think you’re ready to plant a tree.  Have you chosen the type of tree that will thrive in your climate?  Does the desired location provide adequate drainage and  necessary sunlight? There are several variables to consider before even breaking ground.  It is equally important that you pre-mark your project with white paint and/or flags before notifying JULIE.  Once your project area has been marked, call JULIE at 811 or 1-800-892-0123 before you dig and have your lines located for free by our members.  You can also enter a “locate request” now via E-Request or contact a call center agent at any time.  Call center agents are available 24/7 to process requests.  For additional information please reference our Homeowner’s Guide.

Selecting the best location for a tree is more complex than you might think.  Planting a tree where you find it to be the most ascetically pleasing, may not be the most functional location for your tree to grow.  With a little planning, it is possible to plant your tree in a location that will provide shade, serve as a wind break, increase property value and improve the air quality of your neighborhood.  Choose a location that will allow for adequate drainage.  Neglecting to account for drainage could result in rotting of the roots.  You must also consider the type of soil in which you are planting, the amount of sunlight the location provides and the size of the space in relation to the size of the tree.  Planting a tree too close to your home could damage the foundation, so be sure to account for root growth as your tree matures.  Roots usually grow about one to two times the height of the tree.

You found a pretty tree at the local nursery you would like to plant, but will it survive in your yard?  Identify the type of trees that will grow best in your soil and thrive in the sunlight provided by your yard.  Determine the amount of moisture the tree will need in order for it to grow properly.  It is also important to research the hardiness zone for your area.  Hardiness zone maps tell you what plants will grow most successfully in a given area based on climate.  Also, have you chosen a tree that is coniferous or deciduous?  A coniferous tree thrives in cold climates and is usually full of needles, while a deciduous tree typically drops leaves in the fall.  It is best to know what to expect before fall is upon you, so you can prepare for the piles of leaves your tree might drop.

Once you have chosen the best place to plant your tree, identified the type of tree that will thrive in your area and marked off your project area with white paint and/or flags, be sure to make a quick call to JULIE.  Always contact JULIE before you begin a dig to have your utility lines located for free by our members. It is crucial that you call JULIE at 811 or 1-800-892-0123 before breaking ground.  You can also submit a “locate request,” via E-Request by visiting our website

Tree roots need both moisture and oxygen for optimum growth and survival.  Be sure to assess soil and drainage conditions.  Is your soil sandy and porous?  Do you have more clay?  Sandy soils allow for more water to pass through than clay.  Clay soil has smaller pores and will retain moisture for longer periods of time.  To test the drainage of your planting location, dig a hole approximately 18-inches deep.  Fill the hole with water and let it stand overnight.  If a significant amount of water is still present the next morning, it is likely you will have a drainage problem at that location.  You can either change the location, plant in a raised bed or raise the center bottom of the hole.  Raising the center portion of the hole higher than the surrounding area will help water disperse more efficiently and reduce the risk of water pooling at the roots.  If water isn’t properly drained, the water will deprive the tree of oxygen by pooling at the roots resulting in “root rot” slowly killing the tree.  Also, keep in mind once you have planted the tree to create a soil berm around the tree, so that water can be directed accordingly.

Digging the hole too deep or too narrow could result in the expiration of your tree.  Too deep and the roots do not have enough oxygen, too narrow and the root structure will not expand enough to anchor the tree.  For a tree to survive, the proper size hole needs to be dug.  Dig the hole twice as wide as the size of the tree.  Identify the root flare of the tree and plant the tree at the root flare not up the trunk of the tree.  The root flare is where the tree separates from the bottom trunk of the tree.  When digging the hole be sure to keep the top soil separate from the dirt and clay below the surface.  The bottom of the hole should be flat.  Score the sides of the hole with the side of a shovel to allow for roots to take hold and to prevent glazing.  Glazing is more likely to occur in clay soil and prevents water from draining efficiently.

You have done your research and have selected the tree, but have you thought about how to successfully transfer it to your home?  Choose a method of transportation, make sure your vehicle has enough room to accommodate the size of the tree and equip yourself with enough manpower to unload the tree.  Trees and especially the roots of the tree should always be handled with care to avoid transplant shock. Even the most seasoned gardeners must deal with transplant shock. Never pick up a tree by the trunk, rather lift by the root ball of the tree.  Nursery trees are sold in a variety of ways. Trees can be container grown, bare root or balled and bur lapped.  Container grown trees tend to be the most durable of the three and the least likely to experience transplant shock.  You can test the root integrity of a container grown tree before leaving the nursery by grasping the tree at the base and gently pulling out of the container. If the tree pulls   easily and out in a solid mass holding the shape of the container, you have a prime tree for planting!  Always ask for assistance from a nursery staff member before testing root integrity of a container grown tree.

Don’t make dangerous assumptions.  Utility lines could be buried just beneath the surface of your dig site.  Hitting a utility line could disrupt service, cause serious harm to you or result in costly repairs and fines.  For every digging project call JULIE at 811 or 1-800-892-0123 before breaking ground to have your lines located for free by our members.  You can also submit a “locate request,” via E-Request by visiting our website or contact a call center agent at any time. If you choose to begin your project over the weekend, remember to notify JULIE by Wednesday at 4 p.m.  All projects must begin within 14 days from your notification to JULIE. For additional information please reference our Homeowner’s Guide.

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