Don't wait till late spring to plant your new trees and shrubs. Get them into the ground as early as possible - just as soon as the ground is dry enough to work.
The idea is to get them planted before growth begins in the spring. Making leaves takes a lot of moisture; and even a small tree can't get much nourishment in a little pot.
When buying nursery stock, select only good, healthy plants. Don't expect the droopy marked-down specimen to make a comeback after it has been planted.
Most nursery stock comes in several sizes. The size you should choose depends on the size of your purse. The larger ones cost more because the grower has invested more time and money in them himself. In general, the medium-size tree is your best buy. The larger sizes will have to be trimmed back severely after planting, anyhow, so as to make up for roots that are lost in digging.
Smaller plants will give you a finished effect in about four years.
When you buy your tree or shrub, you will be wise to invest in a bale of peat moss as well. A 6-cubic-foot bale of sterile Canadian peat moss will last you a long time. Smaller amounts are also available, of course, but will cost more per cubic foot.
Dig a hole about a foot deeper than the plant roots and make it wide enough to accommodate the roots without bending them. If the specimen you bought has soil around it, make the hole big anyway, because you will be adding peat moss to the hole.
Add a shovelful of peat moss to the hole and another one of soil. Add enough water to make a soup. Stir well.
Set the tree in the hole, carefully spreading the roots apart. If your plant has a ball of soil, put it in the ground that way, disturbing the ball as little as possible.
Gently shovel in more peat-and-soil mix around the roots, adding more water as you do so. Don't fill the hole right up to ground level but rather leave a ''dish'' to catch and hold water.
Water well after planting to firm the soil around the roots and drive out any air pockets.
Next, trim back one-third of the branches. Don't cheat. You don't want to lose any branches, and that's understandable after you paid all that money, but you must compensate for the loss of roots.
A good mulching with bark chips or old leaves will keep weeds and grass from competing for moisture with the new planting.
If your area has lots of hot summer sunshine, wrap the tree trunks with strips of burlap or special tree-wrap paper which is available from your nurseryman.
Take the time to stake your new tree, too. Staking steadies the tree and prevents the developing roots from breaking off.
Be sure your new tree gets at least one inch of water every week for the entire growing season. If you don't get that much rain in a week, water the tree well with the garden hose. Don't just sprinkle it for a few minutes, but make sure you give it a really good wetting. More new trees die from insufficient moisture than from any other cause.
The few extra minutes you take in planting and watering your new tree or shrub will pay off in years of beauty and shade.