Treelands top tips for tree planting success
Updated: Jul 20
Winter is one of the best times of the year to plant trees whether it’s planting a new tree, or moving an existing tree into a new location. Winter planting will give your tree the best chance to thrive when they come out of dormancy in the warmer weather. But if you're going to invest your time and money in planting a tree, you might want to check out “our 8 top tips for tree planting success”, to make sure you see a good return on your planting investment.
Do your research
Trees are like humans as they vary massively from being tall, narrow, small, columnar, low wide spreading, to trees that like to grow in wet ground, dry clay ground, to trees that like full sun that are drought tolerant, and trees that can take strong winds. These are just a few types and growth habits that can affect your tree and how it might grow. Spend a little time researching what will grow well in your soil, temperature, light and space conditions before you put your hand in your pocket and buy a tree. Even small gardens can have a tree suitable for their conditions and small size.
Location location location
As Arborist’s we mostly always have to remove a tree because it’s been planted in the wrong place. That's not the tree's fault but the person that put it there. When planting a tree people often don't do their research and just pop it in the ground, then a few years down the line they have to remove it. So, if you're going to invest in planting a tree make it worth your while and think about where you're planting it. A few things to look out for and remember are:
Is the soil and exposure condition right for the tree species you want to plant?
Are there any power lines, buildings or obstacles that it will interfere with as it grows?
How close is it to a path way, road, drain or foundations? Because tree roots will push weak footing/foundations up and damage them.
Is it going to block your light or view as it grows?
Will it drop leaves where you don't want them?
Spacings. If you're planting more than one tree, make sure there's room for them when they're bigger. Otherwise, you end up with lots of poorly formed crowded trees instead of one or two good looking well structured specimen trees.
If you bear these things in mind when selecting your tree species, not only could you save time and money in the future, but that tree might just turn into a valued asset to your property. See our blog “How investing in your trees could save and possibly make you money!” for more information on that topic.
Find a healthy tree
It’s quite easy to go a find and buy a tree but like most things, quality is the key. Finding a good healthy young tree will mean you're starting from a solid foundation, and will have more chances of success, than a tree of poor condition and health. A few things to look out for when selecting a tree are:
Knowing the nursery it came from so you can find out what their reputation is like, and if it's local, trees grown in different regions may struggle in your area.
Look for a good vigorous tree with healthy leaf and stem wood that's not damaged.
Check the pot (if it is in one,) if the soil there is in good condition. Ask yourself, is the soil damp from regular watering and the pot of a good size for the tree or is it dry, more wood bark then soil and the roots coming out the bottom?
Square holes not round
It's planting time! Dig a hole and put it in and walk away, job done, right? Nope, sorry. Again like everything, take a little time to get it right and you're rewarded with a flourishing healthy tree. So a few key things to remember are:
Dig a square hole not a round one, as a round hole can act like a pot and a tree can become rootbound in the ground.
Soften the edges if you're planting in hard ground. Break up the edge and bottom of your hole with a fork because again hard soils can stop roots pushing out and result in rootbound trees.
Back fill the tree heeling in the soil so the tree is set firmly in place, but be careful not to damage the tree and its root as you do this.
Don't over fill the hole, the level of the soil should sit level with the soil in the pot or just below the tree low graft point.
Stake or not to stake? That is the question
Staking of a tree can be required on taller trees and trees in exposed locations as this helps the tree support itself while its roots develop. But remember:
Stakes should only be a support as the tree should not be reliant on the staking all the time, just in windy conditions, there should still be movement in the stem.
Don't forget to loosen the ties as the tree grows otherwise the tree might get damaged from the ties that are meant to help it.
Remove the stakes once they are not needed which is usually after a few years. No one likes to see a tree that grows around a post or metal rail.
Mulch mulch mulch
Mulch is great to help trees of all ages as it helps retain moisture in the soils, suppress weeds and reduce competition for nutrients/water, and it breaks down the soil to help feed the tree. Organic base mulch is best such as wood chip, leaf litter and wood bark but remember don't push it onto the stem of the tree as it can cause decay and rot at the base of the stem. It is best to leave a little space around the stem and put a mulch ring the size of the drip line if possible around the tree about 10cm thick. And lastly, don’t forget to top it up each year.
Watering of young trees is probably one of the most important things to do once the tree is planted, because the root ball is small and not yet developed. Young trees need lots of water to help fuel the growth so regular watering is key and do this for recently relocated trees too. Even once a tree has been in the ground for a long time, it pays to have a little dig around the soil during hot periods to see if it dry, and if it is, give it a long deep soak every week or so. If you're on water restrictions then think about watering your trees not your grass as they take longer to grow and give more back in the long run. If you haven’t already, look into how to collect rainwater for the dry periods.
Long term after care
Keep an eye on your tree. We’ve already said you're going to need to water, loosen stakes, and keep mulch topped up, but keeping a close eye on their health, growth and development will help you spot something such as a poorly formed branch union or a nutrient deficiency. These are easy to sort when a tree is young, but not so easy when they get larger.
These are just a few of our top tips that we see costing tree owners the trees health, and their pockets. But remember, do your RESEARCH first and give yourself and your trees the best possible chance of success. Happy planting.
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