First and foremost, put tree protectors, A.K.A tree tubes, around each and every seedling on planting day. They accelerate growth and protect your plants from deer and other plant destroying critters. Don’t plant a tree without them.
Aggressive weeds, including grasses, will rob your seedlings of necessary moisture and nutrients. You can provide mechanical control with a hoe or weedeater, or chemical control with a contact herbicide such as glyphosate. No matter your choice, keep at least a 3 foot radius weed free around your prized plants during the growing season.
Mulch shades the ground around your precious seedling, keeping the soil cool. It also suppresses thirsty weeds and traps moisture that would otherwise evaporate. Natural mulches such as bark, straw, or leaves work well and break down into soil-building organic matter are a great choice. In extremely droughty areas, fabric and plastic weed mats work exceptionally well to trap and hold moisture around the roots.
Like humans, plants need a quality food source to stay healthy and reach their full potential. Proper fertilization encourages a strong root system that is much more capable of utilizing available soil moisture than a stressed out, underfed root system. Consider using manure based organic, or low-salt chemical fertilizers instead of traditional chemical fertilizers. Follow the instructions on the bag- and yes, it’s ok to fertilize a tree its first year.
Flowering and mast producing trees are an integral part of quality habitat, but getting them established can be a daunting task for the beginning grower. Following the prior steps to success with save you a ton of heartache and make you look like an old pro.