• In this video, This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook shows the proper way to plant a tree.


    1. Measure width of tree’s root ball; multiply times three to calculate tree-hole diameter.
    2. Mark the tree-hole diameter onto the ground with line-marking spray paint.
    3. Use shovel to remove grass from marked circle; place grass on tarp and add to compost.
    4. Measure height of root ball up to the root flare.
    5. Dig hole depth to equal height to root flare.
    6. Stretch taut string across hole and measure down to check hole depth.
    7. Roll the tree into the hole.
    8. Cut twine from branches.
    9. Rotate tree with best side facing the street.
    10. Use bolt cutters to remove the wire basket from the root ball.
    11. Pull the burlap away from the root ball.
    12. Add superphosphate and starter fertilizer to the hole.
    13. Back fill around root ball with excavated topsoil.
    14. Force garden hose deep into hole and fill hole with water.
    15. Water tree every day for the first week, twice a week for the second week, and then once a week every week until the ground freezes.
    • Difficulty: Moderate
      Somewhat easy to moderate, depending on the size of the tree's root ball, and the hardness of the soil
Ask TOH users about Trees & Shrubs

Contribute to This Story Below

      Video Directory

      Selected Topic/Section

      Tools List

      • square shovel
      • 11-inch steel punch
        Steel bar,
        used to break up tough soil and pry out rocks
      • 100-foot tape measure
        Tape measure
      • utility knife
        Utility knife,
        used to cut twine from branches
      • bolt cutter
        Bolt cutters,
        for removing wire basket from root ball
      • hand cultivator
        Three-prong cultivator,
        used to loosen packed dirt from root flare

      Shopping List

      1. Tree

      2. Line-marking spray paint

      3. Tarp
      for holding excavated grass and soil

      4. Landscaper's hand truck,
      used to transport tree

      5. Wood stake and string,
      used to accurately measure hole depth

      6. Superphosphate,
      used to amend soil

      7. Starter fertilizer,
      used to amend soil