Plant it well and take care of it, and your tree will pay dividends, providing your yard with color, shade and structure for many years to come.
When to Start: Late autumn
At Its Best: All year round
Time to Complete: 2 hours
Dig a circular hole twice the width and the same depth as the root ball; digging the hole deeper than the root ball may cause the tree to sink once planted. Instead, puncture the base and sides with a garden fork to encourage the roots to penetrate.
Most trees are planted with the top of their root ball slightly above the soil surface, which helps them to establish a strong root system and avoid drainage issues. Place the tree in the hole, lay the shovel handle across the top of the root ball to check the level, and add or remove soil as required.
Lift the tree from the hole and use your fingers to gently tease the outer roots away from the root ball. This will encourage them to root into the surrounding soil, helping the tree establish, and is particularly important if the tree is root-bound.
Hold the tree in the hole and turn it until its best side is facing in the right direction. Then fill around the root ball with the excavated soil. Do this in three stages; adding soil and gently firming it down with your foot each time. Make sure there are no air pockets between the roots.
Make sure the root ball is just above the soil surface. As a guide, look for the "nursery line," where the trunk darkens at the base, showing the level the tree was grown at in the nursery. This must not be buried. Then add a thin layer of soil over the root ball so that no roots are exposed.
Choose a stake that will reach a third of the way up the trunk. Use a mallet to hammer it into the ground at an angle of about 45 degrees with the top facing the prevailing wind. Attach a tree tie at the point where tree and stake meet, using a spacer to prevent them rubbing together.
Water the tree well and then apply a thick mulch, such as composted bark chippings, to suppress competing weeds and seal in moisture. Keep it clear of the stem. Make sure the tree receives water regularly for two years, and check and loosen ties frequently. The ties can be removed after two or three years when the tree has become fully established.