10 Tools You Need When You’re Planting Trees

Whether you’re placing a few stately shade trees or investing in an orchard full of fruit and nut trees, planting trees requires a lot of tools.

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: Daniel Johnson

Whether you’re placing a few stately shade trees or investing in an orchard full of fruit and nut trees, planting trees requires a lot of tools to get the job done. Arming yourself with the right equipment will ensure the project goes smoothly to give your trees a healthy start.

Whether you’re planting first thing in the spring or waiting until autumn to capitalize on milder weather, this handy checklist of 10 tools you need for planting trees will help ensure you don’t overlook an important component of the job:

1. Wagon

Trees are heavy, particularly those grown in large pots. You don’t want to carry them far, so having a wagon (either a hand-pulled cart or a larger tractor-pulled trailer) will help you bring the trees right to their holes without breaking your back.

Tractor-pulled trailers are also useful for hauling the rest of your tree-planting tools.

Learn more about how a wagon can be an indispensable hobby farm tool.

2. GPS Receiver

When coupled with a tape measure (see below) and graph paper, a GPS receiver can help you plan the most ideal location for every tree, allowing you to envision your orchard at maturity even when the trees are still young.

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3. Shovel and Spade

These tools, a shovel for scooping dirt and a spade for breaking the sod and cutting through the soil, will help you quickly and efficiently dig the wide, deep holes needed for tree plantings.

What exactly is the difference between a shovel and a spade?

4. Digging Bar

There’s a chance you’ll encounter large rocks while digging the holes. And if you’re like me, once you’ve chosen the perfect location for a tree, you’re bound and determined to dig that hole no matter what obstacles you might encounter.

A digging bar will help you pry heavy boulders out of the ground.

5. Bucket

If you’re shoveling loose soil onto the sod surrounding your holes, it will be difficult to pick it all back up after the fact.

Instead, shovel the soil into a large bucket, which will keep things tidier and save you time when you backfill the hole. A separate bucket can be used to hold rocks.

6. Tape Measure

Rather than eyeball the depth of your holes and hope they’re correct, measure the height and width of the rootballs you’ll be planting to make sure your holes are an ideal match. Dig the holes a few inches deeper than necessary, then backfill the bottom with loose soil until the tree sits at the correct height.

This will provide softer soil for the roots to penetrate early on.

7. Utility Knife

It can be difficult to remove large trees from their containers. While I love saving plastic pots for future use, I’ve found the best solution is to slice multiple sides of the pot with a utility knife and remove the tree this way.

The utility knife can also be used to cut through overly crowded roots growing on the outside of the rootball to encourage outward growth.

Not sure what to plant? Here are four great trees to plant in autumn.

8. T-posts

If your trees are spindly and/or a bit crooked in their growth, staking them with a T-post will support them against the wind, helping them to grow straight until they’re large enough to fend for themselves.

You can also install T-posts around each tree to support a welded wire fence for protection against hungry deer.

9. Fence Post Driver

T-posts aren’t very helpful without a way to install them. A manual or gas-powered fence post driver will quickly drive them into place.

10. Water Jugs or Tanks

Freshly-planted trees need plenty of water, so bring along a supply to give them a long drink after planting.

If you’re within reach of a garden hose, perfect. If not, water jugs or tanks can be hauled by wagon to more remote locations. I use a 35-gallon leg tank to water trees in my orchard, and I’ve been happy with the results.

Have fun planting!

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