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How to Plant a Tree in Your Garden

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.

hawthorn tree in bloom with delicate pink blossomsHow To Grow Practically Everything ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010 The delicate pink blossom of this hawthorn (Crataegus) is followed in autumn by masses of scarlet berries, which make a tempting feast for birds. Ferns, witch hazel and bleeding hearts enhance the texture and color of the border.

When to Start: Late autumn
At Its Best: All year round
Time to Complete: 2 hours

Materials Needed:

  • tree
  • spade
  • fork
  • cane
  • stake
  • tree tie
  • mulch
  • gardening gloves

Prepare the Ground

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.

preparing ground for tree plantingHow To Grow Practically Everything ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010

Check Planting Depth

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.

lay cane across top of soil to check levelHow To Grow Practically Everything ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010

Tease Out Roots

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.

tease out roots and place tree in dug holeHow To Grow Practically Everything ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010

Plant the Tree

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.

turn tree around in hole until best side faces outHow To Grow Practically Everything ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010

Gently Firm In

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.

add soil over root ball and firm in by footHow To Grow Practically Everything ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010

Attach Tree to Wooden Stake

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.

  • tie newly planted tree to stake for supportHow To Grow Practically Everything ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010
  • attach tree tie at point where tree and stake meetHow To Grow Practically Everything ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010

Aftercare

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.

apply thick mulch to suppress competing weedsHow To Grow Practically Everything ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010
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