Young Tree Care

Congratulations on Your New Tree

The care you provide in the first three years after planting is critical for the tree’s long-term health. During this establishment period, the tree has less ability to absorb the water and nutrients it needs and is more vulnerable to physical damage.

This brief guide will give you the information you need to keep your tree healthy during its most formative years. With proper care, your tree will provide you with many years of benefits and enjoyment.


The single most important factor for young tree survival is water. Continue watering through the first two to three years after planting.

When: Water weekly from early spring until soil freezes in winter. Water twice weekly during times of drought.

How Much: Twenty-five gallons a week. Allow soil to dry out completely between waterings.



Proper mulching is one of the best things you can do for your tree. Mulch fertilizes the soil, insulates the roots, holds moisture, and cuts down on competition from turfgrass or weeds.

Mulch should be applied in a wide and shallow ring around the tree. Mulch should not touch the trunk.

Follow the 3-3-3 guideline when applying mulch:

  • in a 3 foot radius (six feet wide total) around the trunk of the tree
  • At a depth no greater than 3 inches
  • Keep 3 inches around the trunk clear

Re-apply mulch annually in spring or fall

Tree Protection

Deer: Protect trees from deer browse by encircling them with wire fencing. Secure with a stake. Plastic sleeves can protect against damage from bucks rubbing their antlers against the trunk.

Mowers and Weedwackers: A plastic trunk guard can be installed at the base of the trunk. Tree stakes and a wide mulch ring discourage mowers from getting too close to the trunk.

Vandalism Protection: a sturdy tree installation can help reduce human interference. To minimize vandalism and damage, especially in high foot-traffic areas, use three stakes in a triangle and a wider mulch ring.

Additional Resources

Download Young Tree Care Brochure
Tree Owner’s Manual: U.S. Forest Service Publication with in-depth tree care information.
Casey Trees How to’s: Resources created by Casey Trees to help you care for your trees.