Plottings: Your Garden Now

How to plant a tree

First prepare your site. Trees need the correct amount of air, nutrients and moisture in the soil in order to thrive. If you have heavy soil which can become waterlogged, you should consider planting on a slight mound, incorporating drainage and/or choosing a tolerant tree. Wet can kill the finer roots or make them susceptible to disease.

It's always a good idea to loosen the soil in a wider area than the size of your root ball, and incorporate organic matter. Water your tree well before planting, ideally leaving it to stand in water for an hour or so to have a good drink. Remove from its pot and tease out and spread the roots (you can do this to gauge how big your hole needs to be, but keep it wrapped up/moist whilst you dig your hole, especially in sunny/windy weather.  Dig the hole no deeper than the roots, but is around twice the diameter of the root system.

Any loose compost from the top of the pot should be scraped off, so that the top of the roots are near the soil surface (planting too deep is a common mistake often fatal (for the tree!).

In most situations (except small tree/sheltered site) you will need to stake the tree. Make sure the stake is not too close to the trunk - at least a hand-span is good - and

use a soft tie that will allow some movement in high winds. I have seen entire trees and their stakes snapped off at ground level when a gale hits trees in full leaf. Two or three stakes work well, and they must go a good 2’ into the ground.  Avoid damaging roots with stakes.

Refill the planting hole carefully, placing soil between and around all the roots to eliminate air pockets. There is no need to add anything to the soil nearest the roots - it can even hinder plant establishment as the organic matter decomposes and may cause the plant to sink. There is also less incentive for the roots to grow out into the surrounding soil. Firm the soil gently, avoiding over-compacting.

After planting, water your tree thoroughly and then WATER IT AT REGULAR INTERVALS UNTIL WELL ESTABLISHED. Drought stress is common with newly planted trees and shrubs, and the best way of ensuring water gets to the correct place is to use watering tubes or sections of pipe leading down to the bottom of the hole, to get water directly where it’s needed. Summer rain is rarely effective for watering trees, and even if the surface is wet the soil lower down will be dry. Windy weather is just as likely to cause problems as sunny. Ideally, keep a weed-and-grass-free circle around the tree of about 4ft diameter, so that grass etc will not take the moisture and nutrients. Mulch is a good way to keep this circle clear, but keep it away from the bark itself at the base of the trunk.

If your tree is to be exposed to rabbits or other wildlife, a tree guard is strongly recommended.

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