Best Tree Planting Tool

edlincoln(6A)April 29, 2014

I'd be planting small bare root trees in clay. Ideally I'd want something that could give me some leverage and let me drive a deep, narrow hole I could drop the tap roots into. Isn't there a tool for that?

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mikebotann(8a SE of Seattle)

I would think a wide hole at the proper depth with a construction shovel would be better for the trees than a deep narrow hole. Post hole diggers are a lot of work and aren't suited for planting anything in my opinion.
When I was a kid I planted a lot of cabbage starts on two foot centers with a small shovel that had the handle at a right angle to the blade. The cabbage starts were in a bag hanging from the shoulders. The roots were 'mudded' prior to being placed in the bag. It worked quite well as we planted at least 20 acres each June.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 8:45AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

hey ed...

i dont recall the scope of the project ... but there is a tool foresters use ... a pickle.. or stipple.. or dibble .. lol

see link ..

though i dont know if the cost is necessary ...

if you are talking one foot 2 year old plants.. it can be done with a common spade ... in soft soil ...


Here is a link that might be useful: link -- the youtube covers it all

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 9:37AM
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Dibble, that was it. Thanks!

I'm hoping to plant 20 or so more trees. In theory, yes, I could use a shovel, and that would be more cost effective.

In practice...I find I usually end up having to plant things in a rush. The optimal "tree planting" window starts when the ground thaws (either wherever I'm ordering from or here, whichever comes last) and ends when trees break dormancy. That turns out to not be a long time, and happens to be a time of year when I'm very busy. Bare root trees always seem to arrive a week when I'm going to be busy over the weekend, and I don't have time to plant during the week. Effectively I end up scrambling to plant a lot of things during an hour and a half window. As I'm out of shape and a key area I'm trying to add trees to has dense hard packed clay with rocks , I end up digging holes that aren't quite deep enough to have the tap root go straight down, and sort of having the tap root curl around. I thought having a way to drive an extra deep hole for the taproot in the middle of my hole might be useful.

This is why I've always preferred potted to bare root. Yes, there are lots of theoretical ways in which bare root trees are superior. In practice I find potted trees give me way more flexibility in terms of planting time, and more time to dig a proper hole. I'm trying out bare root trees, but so far I've had a much better success rate with potted ones. The probability a bare root tree will die in transit or in the garage before I can plant it seems to exceed the probability a potted tree will die from being root bound.

Ironically, I have lots of time to post on Garden Web and order stuff online, because that can be done at night, in the rain, before the ground thaws...hence a lot of over-thinking everything.

I was almost thinking of an ice auger or a garden weasel...

Here is a link that might be useful: Garden Weasel

This post was edited by edlincoln on Wed, Apr 30, 14 at 19:40

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 7:34PM
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Do all of these trees have tap roots then? Unless oaks/hickories/etc. I find the tap root a relative rarity.

We planted 6000+ seedlings last year. We rented the county's "tree planter" which Mike would recognize as being essentially a modified cabbage planter. It's the way to go for large numbers of small stock. I can't quite tell what you're doing there though, Ed. Potted, ok, I got that. But I'm still puzzling over the presence of all these tap roots.


    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 8:05AM
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They might not technically be tap roots. They might be an artifact of how the grower root prunes them. There ends up being one long dangly root with a bunch of little roots coming off the top part in most of the bare root trees I buy. The last batch I planted was pitch pines, the next batch will be blue spruce and beach plum.

This post was edited by edlincoln on Thu, May 1, 14 at 13:33

    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 1:32PM
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