Toronto Tree Service FAQ

How Not to Plant a Tree


Step 1 of 4
Tree Services in Toronto » Planting Trees » How Not to Plant a Tree

How Not to Plant a Tree

Spring is coming, and many people start thinking about gardens and planting. If you have an empty space you want to fill or are looking for more shade, you may be wondering about how to plant a tree.

It’s a pretty basic tree fact that most trees live a long time. But did you know that the most likely causes of death for urban trees are improper planting and care, and damage, not old age? If a new tree is planted wrong, you could be setting your new tree up for failure too soon. Read on for some tips on what to do to make sure your baby tree grows strong and healthy!

When to Plant a Tree

In southern Ontario, you can generally count on being able to dig into the ground easily from roughly April through October, depending on the year. Does that mean all those months are good times to plant trees? That’s not the case.

Early spring, right after the ground thaws, is typically the best time of year for planting. Soil moisture is high and the tree can establish a root system before the winter. Fall, after leaves have dropped, can also be a good time for planting, as trees reach a dormant stage. This timing can be trickier some years, though, if the ground freezes before or very close to when leaves fall.

Summer may seem like a great time for planting, but it’s not! Hot temperatures and dry weather make it difficult for a tree to establish itself in a new space. Trees planted in summer will need lots and lots of extra water.

Tree planting of a front yard red maple in toronto

How Not to Plant a Nursery Tree

Like newborn babies, nursery trees arrive all bundled up neatly. You may have a burlap sack around the tree’s root ball, perhaps a wire basket over it, and strings around the trunk. Any string or lacing around the trunk may be attached to a stake.

Inexperienced planters may just toss this whole mess into a hole, pack in some dirt, and leave it. We’ve received many calls from homeowners with these trees a year or two later, wondering why their trees are doing poorly. Always remove any nursery material from your tree. Wires and burlap will constrain the roots and keep them from spreading out and growing properly. If your tree can’t establish a healthy root system in its new home, it will never thrive.

A tree will eventually grow into any material, wire, or strings left around the trunk, called “girdling.” This weakens the tree’s structure. Stakes may be needed to help a new tree establish itself and protect against strong winds before the roots grow deeper, but they should be removed as soon as possible, before the first year after planting.

Where Not to Plant a Tree

Location, location, location! Your new tree wants some prime real estate, and it doesn’t want to compete with your actual real estate. Make sure a tree is planted far enough away from a house, garage, or other structure, so that it has space to grow. This will depend on the species, but should typically be a minimum of a few metres for small trees; the root structure generally extends underground as wide as the tree’s height.

Keep in mind any other work you’re thinking of doing later, too. Planning on putting in a new driveway or patio? Make sure you won’t be paving over the root structure of the tree as it grows (and it won’t be expanding into existing pavement). A tree needs soil space to expand into for healthy growth. Any future construction could also dig into the roots of your growing tree if it’s in the wrong place.

Don’t forget about drainage — planting a tree too close to a downspout can lead to excess moisture. If you plant your tree in a known dry area in your yard, remember it will require extra water.

How Not to Dig the Hole

Digging a hole for a new tree is a fine art. Too shallow, and the tree won’t be able to support its own weight and will struggle to establish roots. Too deep, and the bark will deteriorate at the planting line, risking damage to the whole tree. It may take several years for this to become apparent, but the tree will struggle to thrive. Dig a hole that’s only as deep as the root ball.

Make sure your hole is wide enough — about two or three times the width of the container or root ball. Narrow holes can mean the tree will have a hard time establishing roots.

Be careful when filling the hole — filling it with gravel will encourage water collection. Putting down non-porous black plastic below or above the hole will also negatively affect water levels. Skip this — it isn’t needed.

Do add mulch after you’ve planted the tree and loosely filled in the hole with soil. Five to ten centimetres (2-4 inches) is the right amount — too much mulch can lead to rotting bark and attract rodents.

Tree Planting Aftercare

Don’t just plant your tree, water it, and leave it. Giving your new tree the right amount of water will ensure it grows well. In the first week or two, water daily, which can go down to 2-3 times per week in the first three months or until first frost; after that, water weekly. (Don’t forget trees need water during dry periods in the winter, too.)

After the first year or two, an arborist should prune your new tree to encourage healthy growth and a strong form. Proper pruning will give your tree a better shape and help the branches grow in the right directions to keep it strong. This will also protect it from insects and fungi by removing any broken branches.

Are You Ready to Plant a Tree?

Have you gotten a better idea of what not to do when planting a tree? If you’re still unsure about the planting process or need some advice on what the right species for your space is, click here to learn more about Vista Tree’s planting process and contact us to make a request.

author avatar
Michael Co-Founder
Michael is a Certified Arborist and founder of the company. He holds a Certificate in Urban Arboriculture (Honours) from Humber College, Certificate in Project Leadership from Cornell, has post-graduate studies in Urban Forestry and Arboriculture from Oregon State College of Foresty and holds a BAH in Ancient History with a minor in Business. In addition to being an ISA Certified Arborist, he is a TCIA Certified Tree Safety Professional, Tree Appraisal Qualified by Arboriculture Canada and holds a Landscape Exterminator license. Michael sat on the Board of Director for the Ontario Commercial Arborist Association in 2022 and 2023. He worked at some of the top arboriculture companies in Southern Ontario before starting Vista Tree Management. Before that, he was an award-winning Executive Director in the nonprofit sector and published marketing consultant. On the rare days off, Michael can be found at home with his family - a loving wife, two daughters and two cats in Central Toronto.
The Ultimate

Homeowner Toolkit

DOWNLOAD NOW
Get a Free Quote
Your Basic Details - Step 1 of 3
Your Basic Details

Leave a Comment

Request a FREE Consultation

Get a Quote from Top-Rated Certified Arborists in Toronto

Vista Tree Management is the top Toronto tree service, delivering exceptional work by Certified Arborists. We don’t just care for trees, we manage them to make nature work for you – whatever your vision.

Affordable Excellence

Transparent Pricing

Meticulous Clean-up

Outstanding Service

Custom Solutions

Fully Certified and Insured

Step 1 of 4

Our amazing Clients

Great Reviews - Toronto Tree Service

google
Vista is an excellent company to deal with. The owners went above and beyond expectations to help deal with a unique situation. The guys who did the work were not only professional but also very polite. I will be using them again to help with other work in the future.
google
We are very happy with all the work Vista Tree Management accomplished on our property.  James was very professional and gave us excellent advice concerning the trimming of our 12 foot cedar hedges and the pruning of our mature silver maple trees.  The crew was very friendly and hard working, they did a tremendous job on the work required and they did an excellent job with the clean up.  We would highly recommend Vista Tree services to our family and friends.  We will definitely use them again for all of our future projects.
John & Sonja
google
They just did my front lawn, and boy, did they leave a lasting impression!

They were straightforward with the plan - clear and precise, ensuring that I was well informed of the process and outcome. The execution was meticulous and exceeded my expectations. Moreover, the cleanliness post-service was remarkable, leaving no trace of debris or disruption.

They were on time and was the epitome of friendly and cheerful—felt like I had friends over for a garden party!

Overall, their service was excellent at every stage. The inquiry, consultation, customer support, day-of service, follow-up, and payment process were all seamless.

I had peace of mind and very happy with Vista. I highly recommend them to those in need of reliable and thorough tree management service.
google
I can’t say enough positive comment about James and Vista Tree. We were “ghosted” by 2 other tree management companies last fall. James came by and provided separate quotes for two very large trees on our property, both of which were a challenge to severely prune. They were a hazard and had to be addressed. The quotes were delivered the next day after assessment. The team was here on two separate days (April 30 and May 7). They were efficient, professional and most importantly safe. Hollis, the arborist who climbed the trees was friendly and communicated everything he was doing to the trees as well as any changes he made once he was up in the tree. The other members of the crew (Syd and Pete, I can’t remember the others) were professional and friendly. They cleaned everything up and were open to any suggestions we had regarding disposal of the wood. I would highly recommend this company. We will be having them back again to do more work, in the fall.
google
Leaside neighbours take note!! Exceptional and professional service from start to finish. The team at Vista Tree Management responded to an urgent and critical situation. They were efficient, skilled and courteous. They handled the tree removal with precision and left our backyard immaculate. I highly recommend this team for your tree removal needs. They beat the competition by $1000+
google
James and his team did a great job pruning and trimming our old silver maple. James answered all my questions, provided expert advice and had his team do the work shortly after. The workers were professional, cleaned the space well, and were really efficient. Would definitely recommend Vista Tree management!
google
James was great! Very professional and you can definitely tell he knows what he’s talking about. They provided a quote in a timely manner booked us in for the tree pruning within a few days afterwards. The job was done quickly, professionally and the crew was friendly and polite. They cleaned up everything once the work was completed. Highly recommend!
google
Safe, fast, personable team - did a great job with tree trimming and removal! Note: the removal of a tree was not on the original scope and they still made it happen!
By the end of the day, I wouldn’t have even known they were there.
google
Very Happy with the professional advice and service we received from Vista which was promptly done. The follow-up to ensure we were happy with the work was appreciated.
google
Highly recommend! Michal came by first to take a look at things and provide the estimate. He’s obviously passionate about what he does and I learned a ton about my tree that I had no idea about! He gave me the confidence I needed to schedule the work. James and the “J-Crew” arrived on the scheduled day and were super friendly. The team did an amazing job with trimming my large overgrown maple and a fantastic cleanup job. My yard looked better than before they arrived. Will definitely have them back for future maintenance! Thanks Vista!
google
Great service from a great crew of people! The team was amazing from consulting on best ways to tackle the project, safely removing the trees and making sure the job was done to satisfaction. Would highly recommend and definitely use them again.
google
These guys are incredibly professional and by far the best arborist that have visited our home. And we've had many!

What impressed me the most was throughout their only concern was safety for my family and our property. With that and that only in mind they made all the cuts and changes that were required. When they left, I felt the most relief I felt about the trees in our backyard in a long time.

Truly appreciate your hard work and will highly recommend you in the future!
google
After doing a fair bit of research into Toronto-based arborists, we decided to go with Vista, and are very happy we did! From my first meeting with Mike when he came to give us a free quote, I was impressed with his knowledge and professionalism. Mike and his crew were punctual on the day they came to prune the deadwood from our very large Red Oak tree, answered my questions, and worked for 7 hours straight to get the job done. We were impressed from beginning to end, and wouldn’t hesitate to hire them again!
google
These guys are the best! Very professional, easy to work with and very nice people.
James was amazing in communication and and arranging everything. He is a wonderful person and professional. I had 4 different companies for the quotes and Vista Tree were the best by every criteria I had in mind. After the work was done they cleaned the whole territory even the mess that was here before them. I would definitely recommend them and will call them again when I need any tree work done. Thanks!

Self-Serve Appointment Booking

Use our convenient online booking to choose a date that works best for you to receive your free quote and site assessment from a Certified Arborist.

This In-person appointment is your opportunity to get the outdoor space you deserve, and have all your questions about Toronto tree services answered by a Top-rated Toronto tree company.

BOOK NOW

Cooperation

Professional Associations

We are proud members of many organizations and networks dedicated to skilled labour, small business, the arboriculture industry and professional tree care and landscaping in Ontario.