How to plant a tree
Senior Landscape Garden Supervisor Ben with an example of a successfully planted tree in Hestercombe’s Rook Wood

Trees are such an important part of gardens and garden design. They can provide great habitats for wildlife and be a food source for wildlife (and humans). They can add height to a garden design and provide shady areas to relax in. Even if you only have a small garden, a small tree will really benefit you.

There are so many smaller varieties of trees to choose from. In my own normal sized garden at Chateau Greenslade we have a small flowering cherry, a crab apple, a dwarf apple tree, and 2 pears trained against the wall.

When to plant your tree

Now is a great time to plant trees. Deciduous trees are dormant at this time of year (dormant is basically a horticultural term for hibernating). They have shut down and need less energy and therefore have less care requirements when you plant them. You can of course plant a tree at any time of year but it will need much more TLC from you for it to establish well.

Buying bare root trees

At this time of year you can buy ‘bare root trees’ - this just means that they are field grown and dug up and delivered to you - so they don't come in a container. This is a cheaper way to buy trees and often they establish much faster. Be patient - if you buy a younger, smaller tree you'll be amazed at how quickly they start growing. You don’t need to spend lots of money on a large established tree.

When your bare root plant arrives the best thing to do is to stick it in a bucket of water for at least 30 minutes before planting. If it arrives and you don’t have time to plant it out that week then it can be ‘heeled in’ - this just means that you can loosely plant it into soil to keep the roots moist so it could go in a veg patch temporarily or even just in a bucket with some soil over the roots. The important thing is not to let the roots dry out.

How to plant a tree

Dig the hole for the tree so that it is a little deeper than the roots and twice as wide as the roots, and fork the sides and base to relieve any compaction. This will make it easier for the roots to push through. If the soil is very dry, water the hole. If the soil is waterlogged, add organic matter or consider planting in a small mound above the soils to that the rain water runs off.

If you're planting a small tree in a grassy area it is worth removing a circumference of grass so that it doesn’t compete with the tree for nutrients, and so that it is easier to mow around. Place the tree in the hole so that the roots are just below the soil line and back fill. Give the tree a little shake to make sure that the soil is reaching the roots, then firm down with your heel. If the tree is small it will not need a stake but if you have bought a more mature tree it may be worth staking the tree whilst the roots settle.

It’s worth then adding a rabbit or deer guard (depending on where you live, or rather what lives around you!). There is nothing more delicious to them than some fresh bark. And most importantly give it a good water.

Then sit back and enjoy watching it grow and dream of the day when you can hang your hammock in its branches!

Follow Claire on Instagram for updates from the gardens at Hestercombe and Chateau Greenslade.

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