Planting a pine tree

Planting a Pine Tree with a Burlap Root Ball

You can find a wide variety of ways to plant a pine tree, but one of the most popular for gardeners and landscapers is to use a burlap root ball. A burlap sack is used to cover the roots of an adolescent tree which was grown in a nursery or in a planting field. When it’s time to distribute and sell the little trees, they’re dug up and the roots are bound by the burlap sheet or sack. Twine is used to keep it tied down, and the trees are shipped to nurseries and retailers.

The burlap root ball is a popular way to grow many different plants but it’s especially effective with growing conifer trees. The key is in the digging of the hole meant to accommodate the root ball. The necessary supplies are a shovel and some fertilized topsoil—though it’s suggested you use peat or compost for fertilizer. This will depend on the breed of your tree.
Remember, when planting your balled-and-burlapped pine tree, always lift by the ball, never by the trunk.

Step 1 – Dig Hole

The first thing you have to do is dig a hole to accommodate the burlap root ball. You need the hole at least as deep as the ball is tall, but you need it 4 times the width of the ball. Keep your backfill soil, or the soil you’ll put back into the hole, on the side and get it ready with a bit of topsoil mixed with compost or peat.

Step 2 – Add Ball

Now that you’ve got a substantial hole in your yard, you can put your burlap root ball into the center of the hole. Be gentle, because you don’t want to break any of the roots. Once the ball is in the hole, carefully cut away the top third of the burlap, and take off any spare twine that may still be on the pine tree.

Step 3 – Plant the Tree

Have a helper hold up the tree straight while you add back the soil and topsoil mixture. Don’t pack down the soil, because you want to make sure the roots can get water, and that the roots are encouraged to grow beyond the root ball.

Add mulch to cover up the hole if you mind the way the newly-planted pine tree looks in your yard. This can also help nutrients filter down to the roots, and keep your yard or garden looking clean and deliberate.

Your tree is ready to grow right where you planted it. The natural burlap will decompose and provide even more nitrogen for your tree, which will help it grow thousands of healthy pine needles.

After pine tree removal, take care before planting at site

Q: We cut down three pine trees (in two different areas of the yard) that were more than 40 years old. We also had the stumps ground out. I would like to landscape the first area with grass. But where the other tree was removed, we’d like to create a mound and plant some shrubs and small trees there. How should I pre-treat the existing soil in both areas before planting? I am mainly concerned about the shrub-planting site because I don’t want to lose them. We will have topsoil delivered if necessary and I have a compost bin we could use as well. Also, how high should we make the mound to buffer the poor soil?

A: You are smart to consider the soil conditions before you begin to plant in these two sites. If you prepare the planting areas properly, it will definitely increase your chances of success. There are two different ways you can complete this task; one requires more patience and the other requires more work. I’ll outline them each in turn.

The first way is to not plant anything in either site until next spring. Letting the site rest for a season is good for several different reasons. First, the chips of wood left behind by the stump grinding process need time to break down. As the do so, they temporarily steal nitrogen from the soil, making plant growth initially difficult. This is often particularly evident when trying to grow grass in such an area. The grass will often be pale and spindly. Second, since the trees you had removed were pine, the soil there is likely to be quite acidic. Getting it tested through the Penn State Cooperative Extension will serve you well. The test results are likely to tell you that you need to add lime to counter the acidity of the area and additions of lime often take a few months to generate an effective pH change. If it were me, I would test the nearby soil now, add the recommended amount of lime and then retest in the spring (primarily because as the wood chips from the stump break down they too may further acidify the area). And thirdly, this technique is good because the site will probably settle quite a bit. The last thing you want is a big divot in the lawn or a sunken shrub bed with the root balls of the plants sticking out above the soil level.

The second option does require more work, but if you are anxious to get the areas planted, then do this: remove as many of the pine chips as possible from the area. Dig them out and pile them up next to your compost pile or somewhere to the side of the garden. Eventually they will break down (it might take two or three years) but when they do, you can use this compost somewhere in the garden. Once all the chips have been removed from the site, fill the hole with a mixture of topsoil and compost (I prefer a ratio 50/50). Since the area will probably settle, mound it up a little before planting, but without a resting period, how much it settles is a shot in the dark. You could end up with a bit of a divot or a hump in your lawn. This might not be too much of a factor for your shrub bed, but it will be for the grass site. If you go this route, be sure to get a soil test done next spring to check for pH and nutritional content and then adjust it according to their recommendations.

And one more bit of advice: be aware that grinding out a stump does not mean the complete removal of all the tree’s roots. It will be many years until the roots fully decompose. You may find them to be “in the way” of your shrub planting — so have a maul or pickaxe handy as you plant.<

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How To Plant A Pine Tree From Seed

Planting trees is a rewarding experience for everyone involved. You get the satisfaction of caring for the Earth and future generations get the satisfaction of sitting in the shade you made for them! What’s not to love?

Planting trees is a fairly simple process, but like a good recipe, there are certain steps you have to take in order for a little tree seed to grow into a big, strong, healthy, long-living tree.

One simple way to grow a tree is to plant a pine tree from seed. Pine trees are evergreens, meaning they keep their green needles all year ’round. This makes them excellent windbreak trees in the winter and adds splashes of greens and blues to the landscape

Here’s how to plant a pine tree from seed:

Collect pinecones

The best time to collect pinecones for seed extraction is in the autumn. During the fall months, between September and November, the pinecones open up and drop to the ground, releasing their seeds.

Pick out healthy seeds

Once you have your pinecones, tap them gently to get the tree to release the seeds. Pick out healthy, intact looking seeds. Avoid seeds that seemed chipped, smaller than the others, or any that might have mold growing on them.

Float test your seeds

One easy way to separate viable seeds from duds is to float test them. Simply place your seeds in a bowl of water. If they float, plant them! If they sink, discard them.

Dry your seeds and wait

Unfortunately, the process of planting a pine tree from seed is a bit of a lengthy one. There’s some waiting involved. Once you’ve float tested your seeds, thoroughly dry them off and store them in an airtight container until planting season, which is in December.

Plant your seed!

Now for the exciting part! Once December/early January have come around, it’s time to plant your seed. Plant your seed in a small pot with soil. Place the seed just under the surface with the pointed part of the seed facing down. It should be verticle in the hole. Water and set near a sunny window.

Wait some more

Now for the not so exciting part! Now it’s time to wait. And wait. And wait some more. Your pine tree likely won’t emerge from the soil until March of April. But keep it watered and don’t move it from that sunny window!

Care for your seedling

Once your pine tree has sprouted, take good care of it. Watch it closely. The tree will try to lean toward the sun. Take care to turn it periodically so that it will continue to grow straight.

Transplant your sapling

Once your pine tree is about 6-12 inches tall, it’s time to transplant to a bigger pot. Select a 1 gallon pot, fill with soil, and gently transplant your sapling. You can now move your sapling outdoors.

Find a permanent home

Once your sapling has begun to outgrow its one gallon pot, it’s time to find a permanent home for your tree. Select a spot that’s right for the type of pine tree you selected.

Want to remember your tree forever? Immortalize it by drawing it! Here’s an awesome tutorial on how to draw pine trees.


Two methods are used for planting tree seedlings: hand planting and machine planting. Both are acceptable.

Hand planting is more common on steeper terrain or in forested areas that have been recently harvested. Hand tools are used to penetrate the soil and create an opening for the roots. Once the seedling is planted, the hole is resealed with the tool and foot pressure.

A machine planter is normally pulled behind motorized equipment with a 3-point hitch.
The planter has a coulter to slice through the soil, a foot to pull the machine below
surface level, trencher plates for opening the soil for seedling placement, and packing
wheels to re-close and compress the soil. Machine planting as compared to hand
planting generally has slightly better survival rates, delivers more consistency in spacing
and works best when converting old fields to forest.

Keep in mind

Care should be taken not to “J-root” seedlings (depicted by the image in the bottom row, center), but rather leave the root in a natural, vertical position. Plant seedlings deep, at least to the original level planted while in the nursery, as noted by the darkened ring where the lower stem meets the roots. It is better to plant slightly too deep than too shallow. Make sure that all air pockets are sealed by applying pressure to the soil surrounding the seedling.
Straighten seedlings as needed.

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