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Planting your shade tree

Once you get your free SMUD tree, it's important that you plant it correctly to ensure decades of shade and energy savings.

Before You Dig

Before you start digging, make sure that the spot chosen for your tree does not have any underground lines that would endanger you and others doing the planting.

To find out if there are any dangerous underground lines where you're planting, call the Underground Service Alert at 1-800-227-2600 at least two working days before you dig.

Plant Your Tree

  1. Remove and discard grass and weeds from the planting site. The hole should be 4 feet wide in the shape of a square or circle. Dig the hole 16 inches deep on the sides, but only 8 inches in the center to create a pedestal.

  2. Carefully remove the tree's rootball from its container, and using your hands, gently loosen any outside roots from the sides and bottom, taking care not to break or damage the rootball. All circling roots should be cut to prevent girdling.

  3. Place the tree in the center of the hole on the pedestal so the root crown (where the trunk meets the roots) is about 1 to 2 inches above the surrounding ground level.

  4. Fill the hole with the soil you removed when you dug the hole. Discard any grass and weeds from the soil. Do not add soil amendments.

  5. Finish filling the hole, but do not cover the top of the rootball, which is the root crown.

  6. Remove the nursery stake, if your tree came tied to one. If your tree is sturdy enough to hold itself upright, do not restake.

    If the tree needs help to stand upright, use two stakes and ties. Place the stakes on opposite sides of the tree, approximately 18 inches from the trunk. Each tie should be placed around the trunk and attached to a stake.

    Place the ties so the tree stands without leaning, but tie them loosely enough to allow for growth and movement. Periodically check the stakes and ties to ensure that they are not harming the trunk or branches.

    Usually the tree is able to stand alone within 1 year of planting and the stakes should be removed when the tree is stable.

  7. Water thoroughly right after planting to soak the planting area and settle the soil.

  8. Spread mulch or wood chips about 4 to 6 inches deep over the entire planting area, leaving a 4 inch to 6 inch area bare directly around the trunk. To get free wood chips available to SMUD Customers, call 916-732-5854.

  9. Protect your trees from dogs, cats or other animals with chicken wire or fencing.

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