How to Plant a Tree

how to plant a tree

When we were house shopping, I wanted a house with trees in the yard. As we looked at our options, narrowed down our choices, and eventually compromised our house wish list, I realized I would need to plant my own trees.

Last spring we added three new trees in our front yard. We wanted to improve the landscaping, add shade to the west side of the house, and reduce how much we have to water the lawn. Wasting water is a big pet peeve of mine, so I’m not a fan of a lot of grass watering. We try to make decisions that will result in a low-maintenance yard over the long term.

My favorite local landscaping book Easy Gardens for North Central Texas says the best time of year to plant a tree is the fall because that gives the roots plenty of time to get established before the hot summer, but most plant nurseries have better selection in the spring. As long as you keep the roots watered, you can plant trees in the spring too.

Tips to give your new trees their best chance at success:

1. Don’t plant the tree too deep. You want the top of the root ball to be slightly higher than the ground, not covered in soil. Dig a hole that is three times the width of the root ball, but only so deep that one inch of the root ball is still above ground.

dig the dirt

2. Check the roots. If the tree is root bound in the container, meaning that the roots are growing in a circular shape around the root ball, loosen them up first.

3. Fill in and cover. As you fill the hole around the tree with dirt, add water so the soil settles and there won’t be any air bubbles. Cover the top of the root ball with mulch, but don’t let mulch or dirt pile up touching the tree trunk.

4. Fertilize in the spring. Use a slow-release fertilizer in spring, but don’t fertilize if it’s fall or winter. You won’t need to add any amendments to the soil (even clay soil) since most tree and shrub roots outgrow it quickly.

5. Water is very important. Keep your trees watered while they are getting established for the first few months. Slow watering, such as using a soaker hose, is best so the water goes deep for healthier roots.

bald cypress tree leaves

We chose bald cypress which is a native tree that can survive on rain water (even in a Texas summer) and unimproved clay soil. The leaves are soft fronds, so we won’t have to rake them. I see them used frequently in street medians because they are low maintenance, and pretty too.


The trees were $50 each, the rental truck to drive them home was $20, and we bought some dirt, so our overall cost for three trees was less than $200.

Over time this might end up giving us the best return on investment for all of our house projects.

“The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago.
The second best time is now.”

What is your favorite tree used for landscaping?

Current Favorite: My Hot Water Bottle

hot water bottle

My entire family had the flu, even me, and I’ve been struggling to get my strength back. One thing that’s helping me to survive the cold weather this winter is my hot water bottle. It’s one of my favorite low-tech things that I keep with me. I usually can’t find my phone, but I sure know where the hot water bottle is all the time.

I used to think that these were just for sick people, and it’s true they are good for helping aches and pains. A hot water bottle is even more for cold people, and I am cold all the time, even in the summer.

It comes down to this: a hot water bottle feels like a hug.

It also sort of feels like you’re holding a baby because it has a similar weight, and you can just sit there in the relaxing way where you don’t have to get up, but you also don’t have to take care of it. I loaned out my baby sling, but if I still had it I would probably use it to carry around the hot water bottle with me. Just at home, obviously.

How to use a hot water bottle:

I thought hot water bottles were pink and flabby and liver-shaped, unappealing mostly, but the one I purchased is nice and well made. You can find cheaper ones at the drug store, but I think it’s worth spending a little more to not spring a leak. I bought the Fashy brand hot water bottle from Amazon (affiliate link) which is made in Germany. It has a strong stopper, and it’s not made from rubber like other kinds.

Fill it up with hot water from your sink faucet. Don’t use your tea kettle, that is not smart thinking. The sink will be hot enough.

Put the hot water bottle under the sheets before you go to bed. My kids go to sleep really fast this way.

It should stay warm for a few hours, but it doesn’t get cold, it eventually settles at room temperature.

The sweater, I mean the cover, is optional but important for cuteness and extra warmth. I bought mine from Toto Knits which was ideal so I didn’t have to make one. I love it. I think I want a second one so I can dress it up.

Do you have a hot water bottle too? What’s your go-to aid for cold weather?

My Plans for the Coming Year

water pitcher

I had checked out some productivity books from the library, but I returned them. They mostly contained tips, pages and pages of tips. I flipped through them, briefly, but then I decided I don’t need to read any more tips. I just need to get stuff done.

I took a true holiday for the end of 2012, barely looking in the direction of my computer and letting myself do whatever I chose. That’s why I finished the year covered with downy white feathers. Feathers in my hair, on my sweater, and stuck to my pants. I made pillows, which is something that I previously felt like I didn’t have time to do. I turned old pillows into new ones, and as I hand-stuffed clean pillow filling into new cases, I had to wonder what makes my brain come up with ideas like this? I don’t know.

I do know that the making of something was very soothing, almost meditative, and it made me feel like time stretched out more than the usual.

I think if I can concentrate on working through tasks and noticing the moments when I’m making something, I will find that place of calm even though my project list and work list is long.

I don’t want to be more awesome. I just want to be.

What do you like to make?