Happy birthday to me! This year I wanted to plant privacy trees in my backyard. These 30 Emerald Green arborvitae were just the ticket! Learn how to plant privacy trees and the steps to take so that when you choose and plant privacy trees they will thrive for years to come.
‘Emerald Green’ arborvitae is an evergreen in the Cypress family (Cupressaceae). A slim tree of medium height, these arborvitae can reach 12′ high and 3′ wide. They can be grown in zones 2-7 and make a great privacy hedge.
Preparation to plant privacy trees
If you are planning to plant privacy trees, the first step is to decide what type of tree or hedge you would like to plant. There are many different options to choose from. If you are unsure, I would recommend going to a local nursery and having someone help you. This website has a great comparison chart that will give you some good privacy tree options.
The second step to plant privacy trees is to determine how many of your chosen tree you will need. First, measure the area that you need to cover. This is pretty self explanatory. Once you have this measurement, head to the nursery or check online to find out how far apart to plant your trees. I chose Emerald Green arborvitaes for my privacy tree, and they need to be planted 3′ apart in order for them to have enough space when they are full grown, while still creating the privacy that I want. Since they will grow to 3-4′ across, I decided to plant them 2′ from my fence. Based on the measurements I probably could have planted them 1.5′ from the fence but I don’t want them getting tangled into the chain link.
The third step is to draw a little map of your yard and find out, according to your spacing and the placement of the first and last tree, how many you will actually need. This is an important step when you plant privacy trees because simply dividing the distance by the amount of trees could give you an incorrect number. Your first and last tree will be closer to the edge than the spacing in between the trees.
You can see on my drawing that one side of my yard is 50′ and the other side (due to my shed) is 40′. Based on the map and placing the first tree 2′ from the fence instead of 3, I determined that I’ll need 13 trees on the 40′ side, and 16-17 trees on the 50′ side. That’s how I got to my total number of 30 trees.
Planting your privacy trees
Stake Out the Distance
After you get your trees, you’ll have to actually do the work to plant them. The easiest way to do this is to stake out the distance marking where the center of each tree will go. This will keep you on track so that your trees are in a nice straight line (if you want them to be in a straight line, of course).
Measure your Root Ball
After staking them out, you’ll need to measure how deep the root ball of your tree is. Even if you got trees of the same height, it’s possible to have variance in how big their root balls are. Arborvitaes need to be planted so that the root ball is level with the ground surface (maybe a tiny bit above, but never below). By measuring the height of the root ball you know how deep to dig your hole. Most of my 4′ Emerald Green Arborvitae had root balls that were between 11″ and 13″ deep.
Next, measure how wide your root ball is. You will want to measure in both directions, and dig your hole twice as wide as this distance. So if your root ball is 1′ wide, you will want to dig your hole to be 2′ wide in all directions, and as deep as the height of the root ball.
Dig the Hole and my thoughts on Burlap
When you plant privacy trees, use a pick or sharp shovel to dig up the soil, and a tape measure to make sure I was getting to the right width and depth. Once the hole was the right size, I put some water into the hole mixed with some miracle grow, and moved my tree (burlap and all) into the hole. Now, there is a little controversy surrounding whether you should remove the burlap or not. I decided to leave it on. But I did cut all of the twine and remove that once the tree was positioned. After the twine was removed I loosened the knot at the top of the burlap and pulled it down from the tree about 1/3 of the way. That way, the top of the root ball is exposed from above and the tree can receive water more easily. This is certainly not the only way to do it.
Backfill and plant privacy tree
Once the tree is in the hole and the burlap is pushed down a bit, backfill the hole with your dirt. I also mixed in some nutrient-rich topsoil to give the trees a good feeding. Water the tree throughly and move on to the next! Before you know it you will be done! Using my technique I was able to plant about 3 trees per hour. It took a long time but it was well worth the result.
Watering Your Privacy Trees
One of the toughest things to find is an actual clear cut amount to water these buggers. I searched high and low, and even consulted with an arborist friend I have. Newly planted trees need a lot of water at first, but with that you run the risk of over-watering which will get the roots soggy and cause the tree to die.
My arborist friend suggested that I water a lot the first few days and to make sure that the soil all the way down to the bottom of the root ball is moist (but not soggy). This is 12″ down for most of my trees — that’s a lot of water! I watered thoroughly for several days using a hose and also rotating around 2 Treegator Junior watering bags. These bags will slow release up to 15 gallons of water per tree. Slow watering is overall a better way to get the soil moist without shocking the tree. Between my hose watering and the Treegators I was able to dig down next to a tree and confirm that the soil was moist about a foot down.
To maintain the tree watering regiment I purchased soaker hoses
and weaved them in and out of my trees. Learn how to install soaker hoses. The soaker hose will slow water the trees as well, and it really helps in situations like mine where you plant privacy trees in bulk. It makes more sense to set up your own irrigation system rather than stand outside all day and night keeping them watered. On the packaging the soaker hose says that 50 minutes of watering a 50′ line (which is what I have) will get the water into the soil to a 1/2″ depth. Based on that calculation I am watering the trees for about an hour every other day. One day I do the right side, and the next day I do the left. I just set my timer on my phone, go about my business, and turn off the hose when it goes off. It couldn’t be easier