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  • Writer's pictureZach

How I'm Starting a Natural Privacy Fence by Planting Evergreen Trees

The mature trees we have in the yard was a huge draw to this neighborhood. When we moved in, our backyard had a few large evergreens along the backyard border, along with two very large oak trees, and two large red maple trees. Knowing we planned to put a pool sometime, I've been working to create a natural privacy fence and property border. We have enough leaves that fall already, so to provide color, a lush view and privacy, we have been working to add lots of evergreen trees.

evergreen plant border

Why Plant Evergreen Trees

One of my favorite trees to plant are spruce and evergreen trees. Planting spruce and evergreen trees give you that beautiful green and blue color year around. In Iowa, deciduous trees lose their leaves in October and they don’t come back until May. That’s over half the year with no color. Beyond having color, spruce and evergreen trees provide decoration, privacy, and protect your property against the wind. Think Christmas tree year around. Traditional spruce trees people fear becoming huge and take up lots of space. Many new varieties of spruce trees grow tall, but don’t take up a ton of space. And birds love spruce trees.

evergreen trees with snow on them
Looks good even with a dusting of snow

Here is a short list of evergreen trees that do well in Iowa:

  • Black Hills Spruce

  • Colorado Spruce

  • Norway Spruce

  • Baby Blue Spruce

  • Globe Spruce

  • White Spruce

  • Austrian Pine

  • Eastern White Pine

evergreen with spring growth
Beautiful spring growth!

Over my first year and half living at this home, I have already planted 15 small and baby spruce trees. One of the main reasons I selected spruce is because deer and rabbits stay away from them. All the evergreen pines in my neighborhood are eaten from the deer’s height and below. Spruce trees around the area look full and beautiful. Spruce trees, depending on the kind, all produce different colors.

deer in winter
These guys really own the neighborhood

The goal in the backyard is to create natural privacy fence around the entire border of the backyard. Four 20-year-old evergreen trees grow along the back property line. The deer have eaten off the bottom six feet. I definitely don’t want to lose these, but they provide no privacy on the bottom. It’s kind of like having a giant fence with the bottom six foot open. In front of these I planted a mixture of spruce trees, to hopefully fill the holes and cover the bottom. As my new spruce trees grow in height, I can trim the old evergreens up higher to provide space for the new trees. I like the look of having lots of timber so it should blend in nice. Some of these trees are tiny stumps right now but they will grow quick and I'll be adding more to this eventually.

evergreens on property line

On the side of my house, I planted four silver spruce trees that will provide a hedge. Luckily, my neighbor already has his border covered with spruce and evergreens. Next to the silver spruce trees are Black Hills Spruce, and Colorado Blue Spruce. This should make around the outside border of my house full and private.

baby blue spruce trees

How to Plant Evergreen Spruce and Pine Trees

Have a plan

Research and read about the tree. Figure out how tall and wide it will be fully grown, what kind of sun it needs, and think about what the roots and the top of the tree could get into. Most say the roots will end up getting as wide as the tree. Be careful how close you plant to the house or roots will run under cement. And be sure to not plant certain trees under power lines or you'll have serious tree trimming issues later.

spruce growth info

Call 811

Before digging, make sure you call 811 a few days prior. It’s a free service that will mark all your underground utility lines to make sure you don’t hit something while digging to lose power or at worst, cause an explosion. Most states now have online requests that make the process even easier. Find yours here:

Save Your Receipt

Save your receipt. Unless the tree is on clearance, most nurseries guarantee their product for a year or even two.

Dig the Hole

Once you have your location picked out and you're cleared by 811, get digging! Dig up the sod first by making a nice round circle a little bigger than the root ball. I always place the tree where I want it and dig about a foot and a half around it to cut into the sod.

foot digging hole for planting tree

You can throw away the sod in a compost pile, or use the sod to replace dead grass spots in your yard. Once you have the grass up, dig a hole deep enough that the top of the root ball is just slightly above the ground. If the soil doesn’t look good, like if you have lots of clay or bad dirt, dig deeper to make sure you cover the root ball with good soil.

hole dug

Add Quality Soil with Compost

Once your hole is dug, add some quality black soil, mixed with compost, to the hole. I use a bag of compost with every tree I plant. I want a tree I invest in to have quality soil around it. Don’t pay a bunch of money for trees and cover it with bad soil.

fill hole with compost

Place the Tree

Take your tree out of the root packaging or plastic pot it came in and set it in the hole. Make sure your root ball and tree trunk are straight.

Fill in with Soil

As you dump soil back in around the tree, mix some of the compost with the dirt you dug out and press around the tree with your shoes. Make sure it is compacted into the ground.

compact dirt with foot

Add Root Starter

This is a product that all quality nurseries use when planting. When using this product, the nurseries will even guarantee you an extra year that it will live. With that kind of guarantee it’s convinced me to use it. I have not lost very many trees over the years. Mix the starter according to the directions on the package. Dump a five-gallon bucked filled with root starter slowly on top of the root ball.

Fully Cover Root Ball with Soil

Finish filling the hole up to the top of the root ball with your compost soil mix.

small tree  after being planted

Top with Mulch

Lastly, add mulch around the tree. The mulch should be about four inches thick all around it. However, keep it very thin around the actual tree trunk. Mulch helps keep the tree warm, cool, and uses less water. If you missed my blog post on why mulch is better than rock, check that out here. I prefer cedar mulch and will eventually have that in all my landscape beds.

tree mulched

Water the Tree

Water the newly planted tree but don’t flood the tree or water too much. During the first couple of years, keep a close eye on the tree to make sure during dry spells that you’re giving it water. Spruce and Evergreen trees get their nice green color in the winter from the last drink in the fall. I always make sure to soak my evergreens really good at the end of the fall. Even the fully grown ones.

water the tree

Enjoy Your Trees!

These trees are so small they look more like bushes than trees right now, but that's OK. If you have time to be patient and are working on your yard's long game, planting small ones while you're getting started is a great way to save a lot of money and man power!


Need a yard fix? Here's what you'll need:

*DISCLAIMER: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you make a purchase through one of the product links, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support!


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we're kiersten and zach

Follow along with us each week as we work to make the very 2000s home we bought during the middle of a pandemic more “us.” We’ll share everything from quick fixes to more permanent changes, along with projects you can do in your own home. Zach will also share all his lawn and garden advice as he starts over on the yard.


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