The tree planting season is nearly upon us, so it is time to brush up your tree planting technique. By the way, most of this applies to shrubs, hedging, roses and fruit trees as well.
1. When your plants arrive, trim roots and stems that are damaged. Clean cuts lessen the chance of disease
2. Keep the roots DAMP (not soaked) and keep the tree as cold as possible before planting. Please don't leave it in the greenhouse or beside the radiator in the hall...
3. When you dig your planting hole, reserve the topsoil for when you are filling in around the roots. The less good stuff can be replaced with organic matter as it is good to improve topsoil with well rotted compost or manure. It works wonders for the structure of your soil. Adding sand, grit or even straw improves the drainage of clay soil.
4. Always make a small "molehill" in the bottom of the planting hole to put the roots on. This, quite simply, stops them becoming waterlogged and rotting before they have started to grow away.
5. Square planting holes prevent roots from "circling" and so are better for root development.
6. Use Rootgrow mycorrhizae . These friendly fungi are an incredible help to the establishment of a tree. They associate with the roots swapping water (to the plant) for starches (from the plant). The difference with and without Rootgrow is astonishing.
7. Always step back from the tree before returning soil to make sure you have planted it so it looks its best. It is going to be there for a long time and you don't want to spend the rest of your life saying " if only..."
8. Try to make some provision for watering. We generally bury a bit of drainpipe or drainage hose while we are planting so that it is really easy to get water down to the roots while the tree is establishing. A 2 litre soft drink bottle or plastic milk container with its bottom cut off and sunk into the soil neck down makes an excellent watering system.
9. Backfill around the roots using the improved topsoil.
10. Guard your tree. Not only do voles, rabbits and deer take chunks out of it, so do strimmers and lawnmowers. Keeping a circle around the trunk of about 1 metre in diameter clear of all plant matter will keep voles and strimmers away, but if you have larger vermin then use a guard or chicken wire.
11. Use a stake and a good tree tie to stabilise your tree. You can get rid of it after the second year. Always tie the tree low down otherwise the head can snap off in a gale.
12. Give your tree a good mulch after planting or use a hemp mulch mat which is biodegradable. Either will reduce weed competition (the mat removes it entirely) and both help water retention.
Sit back, enjoy and watch your trees grow