Good planting starts as soon as you acquire a plant. Be sure to protect the roots, stems, and foliage when you transport it home. (Plants can suffer wind damage, for example, if they hang out the trunk of a car.) When planting trees in large beds, prepare the entire area-not just individual holes. If the soil is compacted and poorly drained, create a good root zone by amending the beds with organic matter (compost or peat moss) and working it in well.
When planting an individual tree or shrub, dig a hole two to three times wider than the width of the root ball and about 2 inches shallower than its depth. Gently remove a container-grown plant from its container and set the plant in the hole so that the uppermost roots are level with or slightly higher than the surrounding soil. Avoid planting too deeply. Place a balled-and-burlapped plant in the hole so the top of the root ball is about an inch above the soil's surface. Remove any twine or wire holding the burlap in place, and cut off the burlap as far down as you can. Fill the planting hole about two-thirds of the way with the soil you removed from the hole; avoid using compost or better topsoil. Water well to settle the soil and eliminate air pockets. When the water has drained, finish filling the hole with soil. Firm it to make sure there are no air pockets, then soak the soil thoroughly.
Finally, add a 2-4-inch-deep layer of organic mulch, such as shredded bark, to cover the soil in the planting area. This mulch conserves moisture, discourages weeds, and moderates soil temperatures. Water young plants as needed to keep the soil evenly moist.