Planting tree seedlings is not complicated. Your first chore is to choose the right kind of tree, making sure that it is appropriate for your soil, rainfall and USDA growing zone. Research varieties of the tree you want to plant to see whether or not they are self-pollinating and are susceptible or resistant to fungal and bacterial diseases and insects that are common in your area.
Transport your seedlings from a nursery on a cool day in an enclosed car. If you move them in the back of a pickup, protect them with a tarp. Park your vehicle in the shade. Plant the seedlings immediately. If the humidity is low, hot temperatures and wind may stress them. Do not open the seedling bags until you plant them. Do not expose the roots to open air for long.
When and Where to Plant
Plant your seedling as soon as possible after the last frost. Trees are best planted between 35 to 60 degrees F. At higher temperatures, transpiration, the process by which leaves release water vapor, will dry the roots. The roots may freeze at lower temperatures. Stop planting if the temperature reaches 75 degrees F.
Plant your seedling where both its roots and crown will have plenty of space to grow. Pay attention to power lines and nearby trees and buildings.
Planting the Root Ball
Dig the hole to the depth of the root ball and three to five times the width of the ball. Hold the tree by the ball when you lower it into the hole. The collar of its roots should be just below the edge of the hole. If the soil is heavy clay, plant the seedling 2 to 3 inches above the crown of the roots.
Remove the top of the burlap or wire basket that holds the roots and any plastic burlap or string.
Refill the hole about 1/3 deep. Continue refilling, adding water as you go to remove any pockets of air. When you're finished, gently press the soil down with your foot.
Staking and Mulching
Most seedlings do not need to be staked. If you think you should stake your seedling, make sure you remove it at the end of the first year.
Place a 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch under the crown of the tree in a circle that is 3- to 4-feet wide. The mulch should not push against the trunk where it can trap heat and moisture.
Give a newly planted tree 1 inch of water every week for the first year. This can be from your garden hose or rain. You can circle your seedling with a small hill called a berm that will catch and hold water.