Planting Trees in Designed and Built Community Landscapes - Checklists for Success, Cover Page photo
Trees create green spaces in communities. The right trees in the right places benefit you, your home, and your community now and in the future. It is essential to select living trees to create a sense of place within communities.

This publication helps citizens create community green spaces. It encourages both experts and amateurs to plant and grow trees correctly, and to properly maintain new and older plantings. It is designed to be used in contract planting specifications for all public and private tree planting projects.

Trees growing in small parks and commons, along streets, and in the yards and gardens of neighborhoods provide a mosaic of green landscapes within a community. As well as providing beauty, trees moderate the effects of heat, sound, air pollution, excess storm water runoff, and soil erosion. Trees also provide a living space for wildlife, enhance property values, and contribute to the economic vitality of communities.

Greening and maintaining a community landscape is a long-term commitment that depends on people! Designed, built landscapes with living trees require an infusion of human energy to survive. Parks and other built landscapes need people for completion.

Presented here are the current recommendations and ecological guidelines for tree selection, planting, and after-care based on good science and cutting edge research. For detailed information refer to sources listed at the end of the guide. Six checklists help you select, plant, and care for trees:
Checklist 1: Site Selection (where to plant)
Checklist 2: Tree Selection (what to plant)
Checklist 3: Useful Tools (planting correctly)
Checklist 4: Preparing a Site (planting correctly)
Checklist 5: Planting (planting correctly)
Checklist 6: After-Care (long-term maintenance plan)

Other information includes "Pruning Guidelines" and "Resources: Tree Selection and Care." Take this guide with you as you select a site and the correct tree for it. Mark as many boxes as necessary in each checklist. Use the center section when planting. We live in and among ecosystems. Let's help trees grow to be safe, healthy, and attractive in sustainable, living community landscapes.

Decide why you wish to plant. The reasons will help you choose the site. The site you select, whether in your own yard, in a community park, or on the street, affects the choice of tree.
bullet point memorial/gift bullet point increase property value
bullet point privacy bullet point spring bloom/fall color
bullet point reduce soil erosion bullet point fruit nuts
bullet point winter windbreak bullet point landscape design
bullet point summer cooling bullet point wildlife habitat
bullet point reduce air pollution bullet point sight or sound barrier
Where will you plant your tree?
check box public land check box park
check box private land check box parking lot
check box lawn check box landfill
check box rooftop check box municipal building
check box by a patio check box golf course
check box garden check box school/playground
check box along streets check box town green of common
Describe the site:
check box underground utilities check box sunny
check box near heavy traffic check box shady
check box overhead utility wires check box dry
check box near winter salted roads check box wet
check box near walkway, driveway, or sidewalk
Check soil conditions:
check box severely disturbed/building rubble check box sandy
check box shallow soil to bedrock check box rocky
check box clay
check box silt/loam
Space between curb and sidewalk _________________________________________
Lot size _____________________________________________________________
Fitting the tree to the site:
bullet point A tree's mature size and shape must be of the proper scale to fit the site and surrounding buildings.
bullet point Trees have roots. Roots spread beyond the branch area of the tree. Most roots are found in the top 18" of soil; most absorbing roots are found in the top 6" of soil.
bullet point Trees crowded in small street spaces may crack sidewalks and paved areas.
bullet point Avoid planting under overhead wires and above under-ground utilities.
bullet point Do not plant trees near building foundations or walls.
bullet point If you plan to plant near the street or in a parking lot, know the snow removal plans.
bullet point Do not plant trees that produce nuts or large fruit in pedestrian areas.
bullet point Determine the necessary root growth space for the species you select. Think of clustering trees in a park setting or a parking lot to provide larger soil volumes for safe root growth. Grouping spaces as contiguous pits to provide shared soil volumes is recommended, rather than digging several individual pits. Groupings create their own small environments and may survive better.
bullet point Identify legal restrictions for planting for both public and private property.

Which species?
Show Checklist 1 to the nursery or garden center professional and request a choice of trees appropriate for your site. Ask if the nursery or garden center guarantees its plant material. Note responses in given spaces.
What is tree's mature height? ______________________________________________
What is tree's projected longevity? __________________________________________
How fast will this tree grow? ______________________________________________
What is tree's mature shape? ______________________________________________
Is it cold hardy for your area? _____________________________________________
What are its soil requirements? ____________________________________________
Does it require a shady or sunny site? _______________________________________
Does it require wet or dry site? ____________________________________________
Is it sensitive to salt? ____________________________________________________
Describe flowers and fruits _______________________________________________
What is the autumn/spring color? __________________________________________
Is the species unusually susceptible to certain insects or disease, or to storm damage? ___
Note: In a community setting be sure to choose a variety of species. Do not plant large numbers of the same species.
Note Species you choose:
Choice 1 ___________________________________________________________
Choice 2 ___________________________________________________________
Which particular tree?
Now carefully inspect the trees to choose the healthiest ones with the best form. Reject trees that have:
{short description of image} double stems or multiple bunches of stems. Look for a straight, single stem.
{short description of image} severe pruning cuts. See "Pruning Guidelines."
{short description of image} dead bark, cankers, or signs of disease or insects on trunk or branches.
{short description of image} paint on wounds or pruning cuts.
{short description of image} tight, vertical branches where bark is squeezed between two branches or between trunk and branch.
For commercial municipal contracts, specify that plant material meets the American Standard for Nursery Stock. See "Resources: Tree Selection and Care."
Note: Branches of street trees should be high enough for pedestrians to walk beneath.

{short description of image} large spade or shovels
{short description of image} large tarp to hold soil
{short description of image} heavy duty wire clippers
{short description of image} small pruning saw
{short description of image} hammer or mallet
{short description of image} measuring stick
{short description of image} pruning shears
{short description of image} heavy duty scissors or sharp utility knife
{short description of image} gloves
{short description of image} stakes and strapping

Preparing a Site If possible, prepare the site before you bring in the tree. Keep the root ball well watered and keep the tree in a shaded place until you are ready to plant. It is imperative to expose the trunk flare on each balled and burlaped tree before the planting site is dug so that the depth of the planting site can be properly measured. The trunk flare is the point where roots begin to branch from the trunk. (The top of the root ball is not always the trunk flare.) Remove burlap from immediate trunk area of tree. Pull back excess soil around trunk of tree to locate trunk flare. Measure the height from the base of the trunk flare to the bottom of the root ball. Dig to the depth of the trunk flare.
checkbox Trunk flare and top of root ball should be at grade.
checkbox Dig the space at least 3 times the diameter of root ball.
checkbox Break up compacted soil. Sides of planting space should not be packed. Leave bottom of space firm
checkbox Do not amend soil unless planting in building rubble, poor, or severely disturbed soils
planting tree - image
checkbox Lift tree into planting space by root ball, not the trunk.
checkbox Balance tree upright in center of planting space.
checkbox For trees in wire baskets, cut and remove wire.
checkbox Cut away strings and burlap or plastic, exposing root ball. Do not remove soil from root ball.
checkbox If tree is container grown, cut and remove container.
checkbox Prune dead or crushed roots and straighten or cut circling roots. Make clean cuts.
checkbox Begin refilling with soil, watering as you fill to firmly set tree. Gently tamp.
checkbox Never plant too deep. Trunk flare and top of root ball should be at grade. (Trunk flare may be hidden within the root ball.) Fill soil up to the tree base just to where roots begin to branch from trunk
checkbox Prune only dead or injured branches. Do not paint wounds.
checkbox Remove tree wrap, tape or string on trunk. Trunks should be wrapped only to protect them in transit to planting site.
checkbox Stake and brace most trees at planting time. Support tree but allow it to move or sway.
checkbox Use wide, belt-like strapping to attached to two sturdy stakes. Do not use rope or wire through a hose.
checkbox Mulch lightly and evenly with 2" of composted material at least to the diameter of crown of tree. Leave 3" circle of bare soil around the trunk. Deep layers of mulch can be harmful.
checkbox Do not plant flowers under tree.
Do not fertilize at planting time.

Tree care after planting illustration checkbox Water is the critical factor for tree survival after planting. Deep water regularly throughout the first growing season. Allow water to run slowly, soaking the soil, once or twice a week. Do not over water. Water at the perimeter or edge of planting site.
checkbox Keep lawn mowers and string trimmers away from tree to avoid wounding trunk. Reduce herbicide use near tree and in surrounding lawn.
checkbox Never fertilize stressed trees. Fertilizer is not tree food. It should be applied (if absolutely necessary) only after first year. When used, fertilizer should be applied at the perimeter edge of the planting site.
checkbox Start an annual tree inspection program while tree is young to head off problems early.
checkbox Replace mulch as needed. Keep grass and weeds out of mulched area. They compete for the same water and elements as tree.
checkbox Remove stakes and strapping after one year unless site is extremely windy. Do not stake longer than two years.
checkbox Prune dead or injured branches immediately
checkbox Prune while young to maintain size and shape beginning in the second growing season.
checkbox Do not top trees to reduce height.
checkbox Call an insured tree care professional for advice on large pruning jobs, hazard trees, and insect or disease problems. Nonprofessionals should never prune near utility wires
checkbox Do not plant flowers under a tree. Do not cultivate soil under the tree.
checkbox Continue deep watering for five years after planting.

Pruning should be done with a purpose and not as an automatic routine. Remove dead and injured branches and those that are crossing and in contact with other branches. Pruning to maintain size must start when the tree is young. You can not cut a 50 foot tree back into a 30 foot tree in any way that is healthy and safe for the tree. Good pruning doesn't show.

Prune with particular care. Proper pruning cuts may make the difference between a tree having a long, healthy life or a short life. There is no mystery to pruning and once learned, it becomes second nature.

Dead and injured branches can be pruned anytime. The best time to prune living branches is in late dormant season or very early spring before leaves begin to open. Use sharp tools. Make clean cuts. Use equipment safely. Never prune near utility wires. Call insured professionals for work near wires, for hazardous trees, or for pruning larger trees.
Pruning illustration 1. Locate branch bark ridge (BBR) and branch collar.
2. Find target A—outside BBR
3. Find target B—where branch meets collar.
4. If target B can not be found, drop an imaginary line at AX. Angle AXC equals XAB. Note: Locate the branch collar and make the final cut as close as possible without hitting the branch collar.
5. For stub cut, cut a notch under the branch about 1/4-1/3 through to prevent tearing the bark.
6. Cut the branch, leaving a long stub, then ...
7. Make final cut at line AB (with care, power saws may make final cuts on the upstroke.)
Do not:
bullet point make flush cuts behind BBR.
bullet point leave stubs, living or dead.
bullet point injure or remove the branch collar.
bullet point paint cuts.
bullet point Before you dig! Laws in most states require you to contact utilities. Most have a central toll free number. If you damage any underground utilities, you are financially liable. See "Resources. Tree Selection and Care."
bullet point Plan in advance to protect established trees on new construction sites. Fence off wide areas around the trees to protect roots and avoid compacted soil. Don't allow equipment or materials to be stored near the trees. Don't change grade levels or cut tree roots when excavating. Don't top trees
Written By
New Hampshire logo Mary K. Reynolds, Urban Forester
State of New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development
State Forester's Office, Division of Forests and Lands
P.O. Box 1856, Concord, NH 03302-1856
USDA Forest Service Shield H. Sharon Ossenbruggen,
Urban Forester
U.S. Forest Service State and Private Forestry
Northeastern Area
PO. Box 640, Durham, NH 03824
{short description of image} Resources: Tree Selection and Care
{short description of image} For toll free local information for all states, call 1-888-258-0808.
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