Fall and winter planting of trees allows for beneficial root growth for the young tree. Even while there are no leaves on the upper branches, the tree's roots are growing to establish new footholds in the soil. Whether the young tree comes from a container or bare rootstock, the most important factor is the site orientation of the new tree. Consult your local agricultural extension service for correct site orientation for your particular location and tree species. Various trees will require different site locations in regard to amount of sunlight, soil types and air drainage.
The hole dug for the new tree must be two to three times the overall size of the container or root ball. According to the University of Minnesota the overall tree hole must be at least 1 to 2 feet wider than the root ball of the young tree. Remove all soil from the hole. Loosen the soil sides of the hole with the shovel. Remove all rocks and loose roots from the freshly dug soil as well.
Remove the young tree from the container. If wrapped in burlap, remove all burlap and wires. Bare rootstock should have all packing material pulled away from the root structure.
Set the new tree into the freshly dug hole. Align the existing soil line of the tree with the soil line of the new location. Grafted trees will have special depth requirements that came from the nursery. Consult the nursery instructions for proper graft placement in regards to soil line depth.
Backfill the native soil in and around the root ball or bare roots of the young tree. Remove all rocks and any errant debris from the backfill soil. Gently tamp the soil around the root ball or bare roots. Be sure to keep the roots spread out on a bare root tree while adding soil.
Make a ring of soil around the newly planted tree that is equal in diameter to the outermost spread of the upper tree limbs. The soil ring needs to be at least 2 inches high. The soil ring will retain water and hold the mulch in place around the tree.
Water the young tree to remove all air from around the roots. Fill the soil ring with water at least three times. Place a thick layer of mulch around the tree 2 to 3 inches deep. Keep the mulch at least 6 inches away from the main trunk. Extend the mulch to the outer most tree limbs drip line.
Place a wooden stake along side the tree for extra support. Do not place the wooden stake too close to the tree so the stake hits the new roots. Tie the top of the tree to the wooden stake with biodegradable twine.