No matter how many seedlings you are planting, how you plant your seedlings is important. We’ve designed these easy-to-follow steps to set you up for seedling planting success. But before planting, you need to read our Pre-Planting Seedlings Care blog.

A how-to guide for seedling planting

planting a peat plug seedling
Planting a peat plug seedling

Preparing your planting site

  1. Select your site
    • Avoid planting into pots or intending to transplant.
    • Ensure your site’s climate zone is appropriate for your trees. To find out, check out our Plant Hardiness Zones blog post.
    • Never plant into the frozen ground.
    • Make sure that your seedlings will have adequate room to grow. Buried services, power lines, other trees, and other nearby objects may limit where you can plant your trees.
    • Ensure that the soil isn’t too wet or too dry for your seedlings.
    • Be sure that your site receives sufficient sunshine.
  2. Prepare the area
    • Remove any grass or weeds within at least a 30cm (12 inch) radius of where you’ll be planting your seedlings.
    • Loosen compacted soil by rototilling, cultivating, discing, or digging with hand tools.
    • Prepare your site a few days before you expect to receive your seedlings.
  3. Dig your hole
    • Container stock: dig a hole big enough to accommodate the plug at a minimum. It’s much better if you loosen and mix the soil at least several inches in all directions and eliminate competition near your seedlings.
    • Bareroot stock: dig a hole big enough to ensure you can arrange the roots naturally in the hole (not curled around the bottom or pointing back at the surface).
  4. Amend your soil [optional]
    • Take it easy on additional fertilizer. High-nitrogen fertilizers are too much for young seedlings.
    • Add bonemeal at the bottom of the hole to enhance growth. Make sure you follow the directions on the package.
    • Mix the bonemeal thoroughly with the soil at the bottom of your hole.
    • Add potting soil into your hole if the ground is tough. It helps your seedlings grow faster.
    • Water now if the soil is dry.
Tree Planting Preparation
Planting a bareroot seedling

Planting your seedlings

  1. Plant your tree
    • Ensure the risk of major frosts is in the past (tip: do not plant your seedlings until people in your community are planting their gardens).
    • Do not plant a frozen seedling.
    • Place the seedling in the hole with the stem standing straight up and with the root collar at ground level.
    • Container stock: ensure that the plug is not bent or curved and that there is no space between the bottom of the plug and the earth below.
    • Bareroot: ensure the roots are spread out and arranged in a natural downward orientation.
  2. Water and fill the hole
    • Moisten the soil and fill your hole back in around the roots.
    • Press firmly on the soil around the stem.
    • Cover the roots completely.
    • Avoid covering the first branches of your seedlings.
  3. Water the area
    • Water thoroughly after planting.
    • Take special care watering your seedlings in poorly drained soil.
    • Do not over-water your seedlings. Stop before standing puddles form.
    • Seedlings should go through a wet-and-dry soil cycle.
    • Allow the soil to dry down before watering again.
  4. Protect your trees from pests
    • Take special precautions to keep deer, rabbits, mice, and other pests away from your seedlings.
trees in a beautiful yard
Beautiful trees in a yard

By following the above steps, not only will give your seedlings the best possible start, but you will enjoy them for years to come.

After seedling planting care

We do not recommend the use of chemical fertilizers on seedlings.

Unless you’re experienced with using these fertilizers with seedlings, it can be very easy to misuse them, especially by over-application, which can kill your newly planted seedlings.

Instead, use bonemeal as a soil amendment if you want to promote faster root development. You can purchase bonemeal at your local garden center. Be sure to follow the directions on the label.