Before trees can be planted, it is essential to properly prepare the site.
At the very least, weeds need to be reduced to a level that will not impede access to planting gangs nor impair early tree growth.
Earlier methods of site preparation involved crushing with heavy machinery and burning, but these are less common now that it is rare to convert tall scrub to tree plantations. Instead, vegetation is controlled by herbicides either by aerial application or by spraying in spots in the immediate vicinity of each seedling. In most locations, fertiliser is not normally used.
The level of technology embedded in modern nursery and planting practice should not be underestimated. In general, bare-rooted seedlings are more cost-effective than container-grown ones and it is essential to treat the planting stock with considerable care (minimum handling, time out of the ground, heat or water stress).
Seedlings are grown to precise specifications, including with the correct proportion of fine roots to ensure minimum mortality – survival rates of at least 95% are now standard. Seedlings are carried to the planting spot in bags or preferably in boxes, and carefully planted.
Planting a tree well is a skilled operation and needs expert supervision. The ground should be adequately cultivated – usually with a planting spade.
Seedlings should be in the right location, at the correct depth, and with the correct root alignment. The ground should be lightly firmed around the roots so that they are in tight contact with the soil. In most cases, nothing more needs to be done except perhaps for one releasing operation where each seedling is sprayed with herbicides that will check the weeds but not affect the tree.