1. Provide Ample Water: Proper watering is vital to plant survival, but requirements vary. In clay soils, infrequent yet thorough watering is best, but bear in mind that water will not percolate rapidly through the soil. In a sandy loam, however, water percolates easily through the soil. In that case, lower volumn and more frequent watering is best. To determine if trees should be watered, insert a screwdriver into the soil. If it penetrates easily, the soil is moist and no water is needed.
2. Mulch the Root System:Mulching preserves soil moisture and moderates soil temperatures, keeping it within the range that roots prefer. Mulch also controls weeding and helps keep lawn mowers and string trimmers - leading cause of trunk damage - at a distance. Mulch should be 2 to 4 inches deep and cover the entire planting hole and soil berm. It should not touch the plant.
3. Delay Fertilizing: A rule of thumb is that newly planted trees & shrubs should not be fertilized during the first year or two; the only exception would be those planted in nutritionally poor soils. Incorrect fertilizing can hurt the root system and damage the plant so follow package directions.
4. Limit Staking: The purpose of staking is to prevent the root ball from rocking, not to prevent the top of the tree from swaying in the wind. For most trees, one or two stakes is sufficient. Fasten the stake to the trunk with rubber strapping. All staking should be removed after one year.
5. Prune Lightly: Carefully inspect your new plant and remove any dead, broken, or diseased limbs at planting time. Aside from that, newly planted trees and shrubs need no pruning. It generally takes one year per inch of trunk diameter when planted for a woody plant to become established, so hold off any structural pruning until then.