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Tree Planting and Care

We are very blessed to live in a climate zone that is so favorable to the growth of all kinds of vegetation including trees. However the service life of a tree is often determined by the knowledge and skill of the planter. It is obvious that there is a wide range of skills in Chattanooga ranging from "expert" to "What were they thinking?" There is also a wide selection to choose from.The information here was initially compiled and approved by the Chattanooga Tree Advisory Commission as one of its education missions. It is expected that the reader should obtain at least a basic core of knowledge from these pages.

Well placed shade trees can lower your roof and wall temperatures and help save over 15% on your electrical bills. Shading and cooling an air conditioning unit can increase its efficiency by 10% Trees can help your property values. Trees help to stabilize and add beauty to neighborhoods and can add considerable value to the typical Chattanooga home.
Trees help clean the air by removing poisonous gasses and particulates such as dusts and pollens. They produce vital oxygen for us to breathe and absorb carbon dioxide, one of the so-called "greenhouse gasses."

Trees provide food, nesting sites and protection to the birds, mammals and other wildlife that help fill our lives and our children's lives with beautiful sights, sounds, diversity and wonderment.

What better way to remember a friend or loved one or commemorate a birth or marriage than to plant a tree!


Sketch Out Your Plans
First, draw a rough diagram of your lot, including the house and any existing landscaping. After reading this brochure, draw on your sketch where trees can be properly located.
Consider The Benefits Of Shading First, draw a rough diagram of your lot, including the house and any existing landscaping. After reading this brochure, draw on your sketch where trees can be located.

Plan For Growth When Evaluating Locations
Make sure you give your tree adequate room to grow. Try to envision it 5, 10, or even 50 years into the future. Know what a tree will look like at maturity and consider height, crown spread and root space when planting. For reference, the Tree Species Selection Chart lists average mature sizes for recommended trees. See also the Things to Avoid list for well-planned site selection.


There are many kinds of trees available for planting in this area. This brochure illustrated 25 of our favorites and can aid you deciding what to plant.

Buy the highest quality tree that you can afford. If the tree has no leaves, scratch underneath the bark on a small twig and make sure that it is green and moist, and therefore alive.

What you Need:

- your tree
- a section of cardboard or a tarp on which to mound soil
- a shovel and rake; a pick ax if your soil is compacted
- a bag of mulch (usually 3 cubic feet)
- a bag or two of topsoil (for rocky of very infertile soils)
- a hose that will reach the tree
- a stick with 3 feet of string tied to the top

Step 1:  Mark It
Pick the best spot for the tree and put the stick where the trunk will be. Tie a knot in the string to mark off half the width of the container (or root ball if your tree is balled and burlapped... hereafter referred to as "B&B"). Tie another knot 24" beyond the first knot. This last knot will mark the outer edge of the planting hole..

Step 2: Can Ya' Dig It?
Dig the hole with sloping sides as shown in the diagram and pile the soil on the cardboard or tarp. The hole should be the same depth as the depth of the soil in the container or, in the case of a B&B tree, the height of the root ball.

Step 3: Remove the Container
Remove or cut away the container just before the tree is put in the hole. Try to move the tree by the root ball instead of the trunk. Minimize the time the roots are exposed to air and direct sunlight.

Step 4: Plant It
Set the root ball in the hole and adjust it until the "best" side of the tree faces the direction you want and the top of the root ball is level with the ground surface. A straight stick or shovel handle laid across the hole will indicate if the root ball is sitting too high or low. Adjust now if necessary. If you have a B&B tree, now is the time to cut away any strings from around the trunk and to fold back the top 1/3 of the burlap down into the planting hole.

Step 5: Fill the Hole
Use the pile of soil to back-fill around the root ball. If this soil is full of rocks, remove the larger rocks over 2"-3", break up any chunks of soil, and if necessary mix this with good topsoil. It is not necessary to add other amendments such as peat moss or compost. Pack the soil firmly around the root ball but do not tightly compact it.

Step 6: Water In
When the hole is 2/3 full, fill it with water and mix the mud with your shovel to settle the soil and remove any pockets of air. Finish back filling until the top of the root ball is covered with 1/2" or so of soil.

Step 7: Build a Berm
Mound what soil is left into a dike or berm at the outer edge of the planting hole and finish watering the tree.

Step 8: Mulch
Put a 3 inch layer of mulch around the tree. Mulch helps to keep grass out, saves water, and keeps lawn equipment such as sting trimmers and lawn mowers away from the thin bark of the young tree.

Step 9: Stake
Stakes and guy wires should be used only if the tree can't stand by itself. When used, this support should be removed after one year.

Step 10: Admire and Enjoy!


Schedule time to spend a moment  simply looking at your tree. You'll be amazed how regular monitoring will reveal insight into the health and growth of your tree.

Regular watering is very important. For a period of at least three years, water your tree every week when rainfall is low. A thorough and deep soaking is best, but be careful not to flood the roots, as they need both air and water to grow.

Do not fertilize until spring of the second year following planting. We have found that applying 1/2 pound of ammonium nitrate-granular scattered within 3-4 feet of the trunk works very well. Remember to apply this fertilizer in the spring and then water so that the fertilizer will be carried down to the tree's root zone.

It is not necessary to prune a tree at planting time unless it is to remove the following:

- dead branches
- diseased or damaged brandies
- crossing or rubbing brandies
- narrow crotches
- multiple stems (usually only one main stem is desired except for some trees like Crape Myrtle)

How to Perfectly Prune a Crapemyrtle to Prevent Crapemurder

Recommended Tree Planting List

Serve people with integrity and improve the infrastructure and environment through excellence.

Bill Payne, Administrator
1250 Market Street
Chattanooga TN 37402 (map)
(423) 643-6311  


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Photo by Phillip Stevens and Matt Lea