Top Tips for Planting Trees

29 September 2008

We depend on our trees in so many ways, and Carbon Managers wants you to plant more – see our Plant a Tree for Life project elsewhere in this month’s Carbon News. However it is no good planting a tree, if it is not going to survive.  Trees are tough and resilient, but wise people maximise their trees chances of survival.  The Royal Horticultural Society has put out some top tips for how to keep your young trees healthy.

Tips for successful tree planting and establishment:

Ensure all planting is done by April and start with a healthy, well-grown plant. Choose a specimen with a healthy root system rather than plants that are pot-bound or whose roots are curled tightly around the rootball.

Don’t submerge the stem collar when planting as the bark is liable to rot, resulting in the gradual death of the tree. However, don’t plant too shallow as the roots may become desiccated giving reduced vigour and increased susceptibility to pests and diseases.

Bare-rooted trees should be planted so that the ‘flare’ of the roots is just below the soil surface.

Avoid forming an inward sloping saucer as the accumulation of excess water and detritus may result eventually in stem or collar rot.

Ensure the planting hole is wide enough to accommodate the roots when teased out.

When returning earth around the roots, break down the sides of the hole with a fork to encourage root spread.

Don’t over-firm the soil around the roots as this compacts it, excluding air and preventing the roots from functioning effectively.

Sift the soil between the roots when planting and firm gently to remove air pockets present around the roots.

Don’t let roots dry out, or expose them to frost or cold, before planting.

Water the plant sufficiently as drought stress can occur easily even in cool, wet summers.

Tips for newly planted trees:

Control grasses and weeds in the first five years after planting as they compete with young trees for moisture, nutrients and light.

If planting in a lawn, leave a circle of at least diameter 90cm (3ft) free from turf as this can seriously affect establishment and later growth.

Mulch to control weeds, conserve moisture and reduce temperature extremes. Suitable mulches include woven polypropylene or proprietary tree mulch mats. Organic mulches include bark mulch, leafmould or well-rotted manure. Draw the mulch back from the base of the stem to prevent rotting.

Water thoroughly in dry spells to ensure that the water reaches the full depth of the root system. Watering little and often may do more harm than good by encouraging roots to remain near the surface and discouraging trees from sending out roots into the surrounding soil in search of water.

Don’t apply fertiliser in the first growing season. On infertile soils, feeding the year after planting may be beneficial.

Carry out corrective pruning while the tree is still young.

Inspect tree ties in spring and autumn and adjust ties to prevent constriction of the stem.

Remove stakes after two growing seasons.


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