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Labor Required for Planting Trees

I am looking to plant some trees for privacy from neighbors in my new construction home.

I've been considering Green giant arborvitae at 6 feet tall each. I need to plant 12-15 of these, and the estimates I've been getting from landscapers have seemed really high to me at about $500 per tree which takes the job to $6-8k.

First, does that price seem high? Second, how hard would it be for me (one person) to do this job myself digging the holes manually. How many hours of labor am I looking at per tree considering I'm a beginner who has never planted a tree in my life.

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Super Green Thumb
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Re: Labor Required for Planting Trees

How much labor is involved depends a LOT on what your soil is like. If your soil is reasonably soft, sandy, or loamy it will be much less work than if your soil is dense clay and/or rocky.

But for each tree, you need to dig a hole as deep as the root ball and at least twice as wide, if not more. For a dozen trees, that's a lot of digging. If you have some friends/family that you could assemble into a volunteer work crew with the promise of beer and pizza afterwards and each person plant two trees, it will be done in a day, maybe an afternoon with decent soil. Otherwise, not so much.

I'm a big fan of work parties. In the old days there used to be barn raisings and quilting bees and lots of shared work. Not only does the work get done so much faster (and more fun!), it is community building.

But yes, that price seems high. This site ... tree-cost/ suggests a range between $100 to $300 per tree. If you are going to hire it done, get some more estimates!

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Re: Labor Required for Planting Trees

Ask them to break down the costs

I estimate 15 treess at 40 dollars a tree = 600 dollars for the trees
Delivery charge for the trees 80 dollars
Amendments for the site, compost, fertilizer = 200 dollars
If the site is not level more might be charged if it is harder to get access.
If done manually you will have the cost of time and labor, if done with a machine or auger, there will likely be
a charge for the rental of the machine like a 2 man auger and the operator.
if the holes are dug by hand it will take the longest and it depends on how many people are doing the work.
The machine auger usually uses fewer people but the cost of the rental of the machine has to outweigh the cost of doing it by hand.

You could do it by yourself or with another person if you rent an auger. it would be about 91 dollars a day + deposit + gas.
The auger would be the fastest way to dig the holes. You can dig the holes by hand with a post hole digger which costs anywhere from 25-50 dollars depending on the quality. It will take longer to dig the holes with a post hole digger than with an auger. If you do it yourself it will save the labor charge which is probably close to 60 per hour per person. The person would not be making that much but the company will also add for overhead and profit.

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Super Green Thumb
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Re: Labor Required for Planting Trees

DITTO RBG and Imafan

Before even discussing planting cost I must ask if you have considered mature size of your plants. Do you really need 12-15 plants? If the diameter of a mature plant is 5' then the center of each plant should be 5' from the center of the adjacent plant. Mature diameter 8' then 8' foot centers. If you are planting too close looking for instant privacy you will end up digging plants up in 3 to 5 years. That is a VERY costly mistake that DIY landscapers frequently make.

RBG is correct. The hole should only be as deep as the existing root ball but several times wider. The larger the root ball, the wider the hole. A container grown plant with a root ball 15" in diameter needs a hole no less than 30" wide.

When I had my landscaping business I frequently planted much larger tree. I rented an excavator. Trees with large root balls required holes 3 to 4 times wider.

LSU Ag Center has done lots of research on tree planting. One of the considerations was amending soil or not amending soil. They actually did comparisons and found that trees planted in nice, soft amended soil ended up with the roots staying in the nice, comfy hole instead of spreading out. Trees planted in nothing but native soil had much more substantial root systems which of course meant a stronger, healthier tree.

Finally - do not fertilize until the spring of the year after planting. Fertilizing pushes foliage growth which puts stress on the root system. You want a well established root system.

RBG's suggestion of a "planting party" is a good one as long as everyone understands how to properly plant the trees. Don't waiver and don't fall for "well this is how my Grandfather did it." If you have friends and family with sharp shovels and a willingness to follow directions then have a party! :-()

Imafan's suggestion of getting an itemized cost break down is a good one. You do not need or want amendments or fertilizer. Also discuss planting techniques - hole depth, width and spacing.

Whether you plant the trees yourself or pay someone to do it you are making an investment. Make sure it is done properly. Unfortunately there are so called "professionals" who take advantage of landscaping "newbies".

Cost - When you say $500 per tree is that just the planting or is that providing the trees as well? The cost of trees is less about height than about root ball size and trunk size.

I am really concerned that you are planning on planting too close.

Good luck.

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Re: Labor Required for Planting Trees

Wow, thank you for the helpful replies, this much help was unexpected!

The bottom of my yard is 70 feet with a road behind it, and I've been looking at thuja Green giant arborvitae. My research shows 10 foot mature width for these trees so I'm thinking either 5 foot spacing if I do a so flexible row or two staggered rows with 8 foot spacing.

I don't have enough young healthy friends that could help, so I think it's either tackle it myself or hire someone.

Based on your feedback, I don't think planting 12-15 trees is something a single person can do in a weekend. Is there any reason why I couldn't split the work over a few weekends? How would I store the trees until they're planted?

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Super Green Thumb
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Re: Labor Required for Planting Trees

10' mature tree width = 10' between each tree. Trunk to trunk.

The sight line is 70'.

Starting from the left:

Tree #1 - 5' in from the left property line.

65' remaining.

Tree #2 - 10' from #1

55' remaining

Tree #3 - 10' from #2

45' remaining

Tree #4 - 10' from #3

35' remaining

Tree #5 - 10' from #4

25' remaining

Tree #6 - 10' from #5

15' remaining

Tree #7 - 10' from #6

5" remaining from #7 to right property line.

Perfect spacing.

Need 7 trees. Dig the hole only as deep as the existing root ball and no less than twice as wide. Do not amend the soil. Do not fertilize until next spring.

Your trees should be planted 6' to 8' forward of the back property line.

I can not stress enough how important proper spacing is.

As a Landscape Contractor I made a large portion of my income from repairing mistakes of new, DIY projects. The single biggest problem was over crowding - improper spacing.

You can not expect instant screening.

If you crowd your plants you will end up having to dig them up in 3 to 5 years. What a waste of $$, time and labor.

PLEASE do it right the first time.

Good luck.

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