How to plant a pot-grown tree

Planting a new pot-grown tree is a straightforward process - follow these simple instructions to give your tree a good start in its new home.

Planting the tree

If the compost around the tree appears very dry, you can dip it in a bucket of water for 30-60 minutes - but no longer than that - to refresh the roots.

Planting a young tree is best done with two people. Start by digging over the whole area if necessary, to loosen up the soil. This will help the roots extend into the surrounding earth after planting.

Then dig the hole. It only needs to be slightly bigger than the rootball.

Once the hole is ready, one person can hold the tree vertically in position whilst the other back-fills the earth around it.

Firm the soil back, and make sure the tree is upright. Do not backfill the hole with compost.

Now apply a bucket of water to the planting area to help the roots get established.

If you are in an area where rabbits, deer, or other potential animal dangers are a threat, install suitable protection.

Supporting the tree

Most of the trees we supply will become self-supporting as they grow taller, but it is very helpful to fix the base of the tree so that the root system can establish quickly. A tree stake (placed either vertically, or at 45 degrees to the tree) will help.

It is also useful to keep the tree tied to a supporting vertical bamboo cane for the first few years, this will help to guide the growth.

Aftercare

The critical period for a newly-planted tree is the first spring and summer. During this time the top of the tree will start growing vigorously, but the roots will not yet be "plumbed-in" to the soil, so the tree can dehydrate quite quickly if the roots cannot deliver enough water. Therefore make sure you keep the new tree well watered, with a bucket of water every week, or more frequently if it is hot and dry. A mulch will also keep moisture in the ground, as well as preventing competition from grass and other vegetation whilst the tree establishes.

After planting is also a good time to tidy up any twigs that have become damaged during the delivery and planting process. Prune broken shoots back to a new bud if necessary. However unless we say otherwise, the vast majority of our trees will not require any routine pruning after planting.

Some things not to do when planting a new tree

Don't dig the hole in advance - this is an invitation for rain to fill it.

Don't tease out the roots from the rootball, this will just damage the root system.

Don't add fertiliser or other nutrients in the planting hole. If you over-enrich the hole the roots will tend to stay in it, rather than spreading out into the surrounding soil. However, it is a very good idea to dig over the whole planting area beforehand, and mix in some soil improvers such as farm manure.

As mentioned above, do not fill the planting hole with compost. Excessive compost will extract water from the surrounding soil and drown the roots. If you think the soil in the planting area needs improvement, it is best to dig over and improve the whole area rather than just putting compost in the planting hole.

If planting over the winter (which is usually an excellent time to plant a young tree) don't try to plant when the ground is frozen. Instead wait for a period of milder weather.