How to plant a tree
Autumn and early winter are the ideal times to plant trees. The soil is still warm and the plants are losing their leaves, so will need less water and be under less stress as they establish their root system through the winter. Container grown trees are available year round from your local garden centre.
What you need to get started:
- Garden spade
- Garden fork
- General fertiliser (Vitax or equivalent)
- Tree stake (approx. 60 to 90cm)
- Tree tie
- Blended stable manure or rotted garden compost
Why trees are important in a garden
While it’s not a particularly difficult job to plant a tree, it is one that definitely takes an investment of time but, once established, trees have a multiplicity of benefits both to your garden and the wider environment. Trees will attract a wide range of wildlife from birds to mammals and butterflies, making your garden a hive of animal activity. Trees provide much needed shade in the hot summer months but they can also help to insulate your home from harsh blowing winds. Not only that, but they’re a reminder of the extensive beauty of nature, can bear fruit and display flowers as well as offering you the opportunity to show generations to come the trees you planted in your own garden.
Types of tree to plant
Trees come in all shapes and sizes, so once you have decided on a variety that you like, try to find a mature specimen to look at, or at least a picture to give you an idea of eventual height and spread. Remember a tree is a long term investment – many can live for hundreds of years, so it pays to do some research and ask advice. Also make sure that the variety is suitable for your location and soil type.
Once you have decided on your tree, you can purchase a young ‘feathered’ tree in a container or a larger one that may need to be ordered. A feathered tree has a main stem and side branches and can be gradually pruned to leave a clear stem and a head of branches. Larger trees are sold as ‘standards’ that are already trained with a clear stem. Many container trees at Notcutts are halfway in between these two examples and are called “Half Standards”.
Don’t worry if you have a smaller garden – you can still grow any number of suitable sized trees. Japanese Maple, Sorbus, Prunus, Malus, Birch or Cotoneaster are all suitable if space is at a premium, but when choosing it’s important to keep in mind the height and spread of the type of tree you choose. Even small ornamental trees can reach a height of 6-8m or more over time. You can consider a weeping form as these tend not to increase too much in height. Columnar trees (such as Prunus Amanogawa, Columnar Apples or Conifers) are particularly good if space is restricted as these have a limited spread.
How to plant your tree
- Prepare the planting site by removing any perennial weeds and roots and digging deeply.
- Dig a hole that is large enough to accommodate the roots and deep enough so that the tree can be planted to the same depth as it is in the pot or to the soil mark on the trunk.
- Fork over the base of the hole, so that the soil is loosened to give the roots a head start.
- Apply a base dressing of fertiliser to the hole and gently mix it with the soil.
- Get someone to hold the tree whilst you put the stake in place, banging it in at an angle of 45 degrees to the trunk, with the top facing the prevailing wind.
- Back fill the soil around the tree’s roots, mixing it with some blended stable manure or garden compost to improve the soil if necessary.
- Gently firm the soil down around the roots and add the rest of the soil to the correct level.
Completing the job
- Firm the soil with your heel around the base of the trunk so that the tree is secure.
- Put the tie on, making sure that the plastic ‘spacer’ is positioned between the trunk and stake to prevent rubbing. Secure the tie so that the buckle end is on the stake rather than the tree trunk, again to prevent the bark rubbing.
- Water the tree well – whatever the soil conditions – to settle it in and top up with more soil or mulch around the base.
By planting through the autumn, your tree will establish its root system through the winter and be ready to grow away next spring to give years of interest in your garden and a home for all sorts of wildlife. If you plant in spring or summer, you will have to water your tree more frequently until the winter rains.