Figure 4-4. Plant seedlings only as deep as the root collar.

There are two general methods of hand planting trees. One of these is the hole method. Dig a hole with a shovel, mattock, grub hoe, or mechanized auger. Make it large enough to accommodate the tree roots without bending them. Place the tree in the hole, distribute the roots evenly, and pack soil firmly around the roots. This method usually results in a high rate of seedling survival, but it is slow and not practical for planting large numbers of trees.

Using a planting bar or other tool is a faster method of hand planting a large number of trees. Insert a spade, planting bar (dibble), hoedad or similar tool into the soil and move it back and forth to form a V-shaped slit. Remove the tool and insert the tree seedling deep enough into the slit that it will be buried to the root collar. Remove the planting bar and reinsert it about three inches behind the seedling. Pull the bar away from the seedling to firm soil around the roots, then push it toward the seedling to seal the top of the planting hole. For a still better seal, create a third slit a couple of inches away and seal its top by pressing down firmly with your boot. Using this method, you can plant 1,000 to 3,000 seedlings a day, depending on your experience and the condition of the planting site.

Figure 4-5. Planting a seedling with a bar.

Using a tree-planting machine pulled behind a tractor (Figure 4-6) is faster than either hand planting method if the terrain is relatively level and clear of stumps, woody debris, and large rocks. The planter has a box to hold seedlings, a seat for the person planting, a coulter to break through the soil surface, a V-shaped blade to open a trench into which the operator places a seedling, and packing wheels that firm the soil around the seedling. Some machines have spray attachments to apply herbicides for vegetation control. A person sometimes follows the machine on foot to straighten seedlings or replant any that were planted too shallow. A three-person crew using one of these machines can plant about 10,000 trees in an eight-hour day.

Figure 4-6. Tree-planting machine.