How to Grow An Oak Tree
Oak trees are beautiful and imposing in a grand and stately way. Providing shade for homes and outdoor activities, as well as shelter and food for wildlife, an oak tree is a magnificent addition to any suitable yard. Since most oak trees grow to be quite large, it’s important to compare any tree’s estimated full-size growth to the space you have available.
When is the Best Time to Plant Your Tree?
As long as you follow proper watering and planting instructions, then you can plant your oak tree any time of the year. For example, an oak tree planted in winter will have the opportunity to focus on growing its roots, since it’s in a dormant state. There are pros and cons to each season, however, spring and fall tend to be the most popular seasons for planting trees among gardeners.
How to Plant Your Tree
Here are some simple instructions for planting your oak tree.
- Measure the distance from the top of the soil in your tree pot, to the bottom of the pot.
- Take that measurement and dig a hole that is slightly shorter than your measurement.
- Now it’s time to widen the hole. You want your planting space to be three times as wide as your tree pot. It’s ok if you do a bit of guessing—just make sure you dig a nice wide hole for your oak tree.
- Position your tree in the middle of the hole. Do not add anything to amend the soil. Refill the hole with the excavated dirt.
- Pack the dirt down loosely, leaving a mound around the young tree.
How To Water Your New Tree
For the first year, your young oak tree will require regular watering. This helps the tree to establish a strong root structure. Thoroughly and slowly soak your oak tree about every four days. You may need to adjust your timing depending on your soil type. Sandy soils will require more water than clay-heavy soils which will hold water. To soak your tree, leave the hose slowly running about six inches away (watering too close to the tree can cause rot) from the tree for about 8-12 hours. Slow, deep watering like this supports the growth of deep roots away from the root ball.
Many gardening tools will deliver a slow stream of water to your tree without wasting water, which is costly. Soaker balls are available at hardware stores or can be easily made. Drip irrigation systems are also effective for watering trees without wasting water.
You can easily check to see if you’ve watered your tree enough by pushing a PVC pipe down into the earth. If it will only go down a few inches, then you haven’t watered your tree adequately.
How To Retain Moisture Around Your Tree
Mulch is a very important component of healthy tree care. Correctly applied, mulch will help moisture to stay in the ground, rather than evaporating out. Even more importantly, mulch will inhibit the growth of weeds, grasses, and other competing plants. Trees dislike competition from weeds and grasses, who will use up the water the tree needs. Finally, mulch protects the soil from drying out and heating up in the sun, which could damage newly growing roots.
To use mulch effectively, choose an organic source. Place mulch around the base of the tree, but do not place directly against the tree. Make sure there are a few inches of space between the tree trunk and mulch. Mulch in contact with the tree could harm it. Place mulch around your tree until it is two to four inches deep. Good sources of organic mulch include:
Other organic material
Do not use stone mulch, since this will make the ground too dry for the tree’s root ball. Also, do not use Bermuda hay as mulch, since it will contain Bermuda grass seeds, which grow deep roots and will compete with your tree for water.
Care for an Established Tree
Once a year has passed and your oak tree is established, you can reduce your watering frequency to about once every two weeks. You will likely need to re-mulch if you haven’t already. Mulch can break down or be dispersed, so it is important to maintain it around your tree.
One thing you can look forward to now that your oak is established is what’s called a “flush”. A flush is when an oak tree goes through a sudden and rapid growth spurt. Depending on the type of oak tree, this growth could be as much as several feet, like the Texas Live Oak, or a few inches like the Cork Oak.