Planting a New Tree

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 5 Steps for Planting a New Tree:

Step 1: Dig a hole 2-3 times wider and approximately the same depth as the root ball of the tree in your native soil.

Step 2: Cover the bottom of the planting hole with a 1” depth of compost.

SOILUTIONS RECOMMENDS: Soilutions Compost is an all-purpose nutrient blast with the essential microbial life needed to provide your tree with an environment designed for maximum plant health.

Step 3: Place tree in hole 

Step 4: Fill the planting hole with a 50/50 mixture of your native soil and compost. The ground should be level once you have packed the soil and compost mixture down and watered the area.

Step 5: Starting about 2” from the trunk of your tree, add 2”-3” (depth) of mulch. The mulch will create a tree ring that should extend to the natural drip line of the tree, which is the area under the outer circumference of the tree branches

SOILUTIONS RECOMMENDS: Forest Floor Mulch for tree rings, as it combines traditional mulch with Soilutions Compost to ensure your new tree is receiving all essential nutrients to thrive in its new environment.

Many gardeners recommend extending your mulch tree ring as far as possible on your property to maximize nutrient availability for your trees growing roots in New Mexico’s harsh growing environment.

What to Consider When Planting a New Tree

Trees are one of the most beautiful and valuable structures you can add to your landscape. They not only provide shade, they also contribute to the overall value of your home. Several recent nationwide surveys show that mature* trees in a well landscaped yard can increase the value of a house by 7-19%**. 

Buying and planting trees is an investment in your landscape. By following these tips, your tree will have the best chance of healthy growth into maturity.

Tree Planting Timing

Trees can be planted any time of the year in which the ground is soft enough to dig a large enough hole for the root ball, but the ideal times to plant a tree are early fall or early spring. Both planting times give your tree time to acclimate to its new environment prior to experiencing the heat of summer.

In Albuquerque in particular, many landscapers have found that planting dormant deciduous trees in the winter has created successful outcomes. 

Digging Tree Holes

Dig wide, not deep! There is an old saying that makes this concept easy to remember, “plant them high and they won’t die, plant them low and they won’t grow”.

When preparing your planting hole it is important to dig the hole 2-3 times as wide and only as deep as the root ball.  If the hole is significantly deeper than the root ball, the tree will settle in the planting hole and can eventually have issues with root rot and disease.  

Planting Your Tree

Carefully remove your tree from its plastic pot and inspect the roots. When inspecting the roots, you are looking to see if the tree is root bound. The indications of this condition are densely packed together roots or roots growing in a circular pattern.

Planting a root bound tree will likely result in significant health and longevity issues with the tree since it is unable to uptake the necessary nutrients for a proper growth pattern. If your tree is root bound, you can gently break the roots apart or cut some away that are bound with others.  Disrupting root bound trees can be as gentle as scratching your fingers across the sides and bottom of the root ball (in mild circling cases). In more severe situations, cutting the roots with a saw or pruners wil create new opportunities for the roots to grow freely. 


Consult the nursery you purchased your tree from if you have specific questions about it being root bound, best mitigation suggestions or their return policy.

Fill Planting Hole

When filling in the hole you dug for your new tree, gardeners recommend amending the native soil you dug out of the hole. The native soil in New Mexico is usually low in nutrients, high in salt and contains too much rock, clay or sand to provide a positive growing environment for new trees. Amending the soil with 50% nutrient rich compost will ensure your tree has the best chance for surviving the shock of a new environment and flourishing in your landscape. 

When you are halfway done backfilling your planting hole, hand pack or tamp the amended soil down with the back of a shovel.  You can even lightly stomp the soil down with your feet.  At this point, spray the soil a bit with water until you see it drain.  Continue backfilling until you reach the top of the root ball.  Repeat with packing the soil down and watering.

SOILUTIONS RECOMMENDS:Mixing your native soil with Soilutions Compost for a 50/50 composition of native soil to compost. Soilutions Compost will provide essential nutrients and beneficial microbial life for your new tree. It also can improve drainage, water retention and neutralize alkalinity of native soil. Many gardeners find that the addition of Soilutions Compost is an all-purpose amendment for new trees without getting a chemical analysis of your native soil and crafting individualized amendments to treat specific concerns.

Mulch Tree Ring

This is quite possibly the most important step to ensure maximum health and longevity of your new tree. A tree ring made of the organic materials contained in mulch will help keep the roots cool in the summer and warmer in the winter. It helps retain moisture and is a natural weed suppressant, ensuring that all essential nutrients in the soil go toward your tree and not unwanted plants.

Start your mulch tree ring about 2” from the trunk of your tree and extend it at least to the circumference of the tree branches, known as the natural drip line. Your mulch tree ring should be 2”-3” deep and many gardeners choose to extend their tree ring as far as they expect the branches will eventually grow to avoid expanding it out as the tree goes.

SOILUTIONS RECOMMENDS: Forest Floor Mulch for tree rings. This mulch is produced by mixing chipped and ground woody materials with Soilutions Compost. A tree ring that blends mulch and compost maintains the moisture retention and temperature control components of traditional mulch with a boost of nutrients for your tree’s root expansion. As New Mexico’s soils rarely contain enough natural nutrients for new trees, this is particularly important in our environment.

(Soilutions Forest Floor Mulch around a young Austrian Pine)

Watering Guidelines

To ensure your new tree has the best chance of flourishing into maturity, it must be watered correctly. Depending on where you sourced your new tree from, it may have watering recommendations for the tree when it reaches maturity which it typically reaches 5-7 years after sprouting.

Young trees need to be watered more frequently than a mature tree since it is establishing its root system, this can take a year or more depending on the type of tree. Young trees prefer slow deep irrigation for establishing a strong root system. This type of watering allows the soil to saturate so the roots have time to absorb the water while avoiding excess runoff.  Drip irrigation on a timer is the best way to accomplish this type of watering.  A great resource for watering established plants and trees for the greater Albuquerque area can be found at

Active Monitoring

Following the outlined steps in this page will provide your new tree with the best environment to flourish. However, while your tree is young and adjusting to its new home it is important to continue actively monitoring its health. If you see signs of distress, you likely need to make additional adjustments to the environment to ensure longevity.

Consult the professionals at your local nursery or a master gardener in your area for advice on how best to reverse signs of distress in your tree.