Tree planting hints and tips

Choice of tree

The most important thing is to choose the right size and species of tree. Look around the parks and streets for guidance here, or check in the library or on the internet. A six-foot tree will make an immediate impact, but a smaller tree will establish more quickly and soon catch up on a larger one. Small native trees like hawthorn, hazel, holly, rowan, crab apple or bird cherry are best for small gardens. Hedges can also provide valuable wildlife habitat. Large trees like poplars and willows are best avoided in a small garden  -- they can cause problems later on. Really large trees like ash, beech and oak are only suitable for large open spaces. Some trees like yew and holly can easily be pruned to stay a reasonable size, while others would need more judicious treatment.

Be sure to leave adequate space for your tree to grow. Do not plant close to buildings or pipe runs, and leave at least two metres between each tree.

How to plant your tree

Keep new trees in their containers until the last minute. If you have acquired bare-root trees, transplant as quickly as possible, but if bad weather prevents that, put them in a temporary position to keep the roots moist.

Best tree planting practice is to dig a square (not round) hole which will accommodate the entire existing root run and encourage the tree to explore its space fully.  The hole need not necessarily be deep, but should avoid any cramping of the roots. Put some good compost at the bottom of the hole. Very young trees do not need staking, but larger ones sometimes need a support -- in that case  plant a short stake at an angle of about 45 degrees to support the tree and help it establish. The stake can be removed eventually.

Only then do you remove your tree from its container (or dig it out of its temporary hole). Cleanly cut off any broken or damaged twigs. For container-grown trees, gently tease the roots away from the rootball so that they can run freely. Give the roots a good watering. Decide which way you want the tree to face, then place it upright in the hole with its trunk next to the stake (if used). Be sure not to set the tree too low in the hole -- when planting is complete the soil should not cover the original soil mark on the trunk. Break up the soil and gently backfill it round the roots, leaving no air spaces and firming with your foot as you go. Continue backfilling until the soil is level with the original ground surface. (In a dampish situation it may be best to set the tree on a slight mound to improve drainage.) To assist watering in future, a short length of plastic pipe can be set in the hole with its lower end under where the roots will be and the upper end at soil level. Secure the trunk to its stake, preferably with  special rubber ties which are adjustable as the tree grows. Give a can of water and apply mulch all round the base of the tree, keeping it clear of the trunk. If rabbits are about, set a tree guard in spiral plastic around the trunk. 

Tree care

Once planted, trees need TLC!

            T: tend it carefully.

            L: loosen the tie when necessary.

            C: clear a square metre round it from weeds and grasses for a year or more.

Mulch provides some nutrients, guards against water loss, and helps keep weeds away. You can use pulverised bark or compost, but shredded newspaper and some grass clippings are better than nothing. Again, keep the trunk free.

Finally, enjoy your tree(s)!

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