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Incredible Tree Planting

By Sara Venn

All across the country on 30thNovember people will be getting involved with the Woodland Trust’s campaign to plant a million trees, and we are sure Incredible Edible groups will be getting on board with this, alongside many other community gardens and groups.

Whilst of course planting trees is important, maintaining them and ensuring they establish well is equally as important to give them a good start in their new home, so we thought sharing good practice around tree planting and maintenance would be a good resource to share, both across our network and for others.

Whether planting trees grown in containers or bare root trees, start by digging a hole twice the width and length of the rootball. Once this is done, dig over the bottom of the hole, making the soil loose so that the trees roots can grow out easily, and water the hole to ensure the area under the tree is hydrated. This will ensure there’s easy moisture sharing between the soil being planted into and the soil being put back into the planting hole.

At this point mixing some of the soil removed from the hole with a small amount of compost, and putting it  back into the planting hole is a good idea if planting in soil that isn’t particularly rich in nutrients. However, if the soil is rich this doesn’t need to be done, as there has been work that shows that the roots will stay in the rich compost rather than make their way out into the surrounding soil. Never put just compost into the hole as this will more often than not encourage the roots to stay put.

At this stage use a mycorrhizal product on the roots of the plant. If planting a container grown tree, rub them into the sides of the compost that surrounds the rootball, and if planting a bare root tree, rub the product directly on the roots. If the product won’t stay on the area, soak the rootball or the roots and it will stay put. These products support root growth by encouraging the growth of good mycorrhizae on and around the roots, which generally means the plant’s roots will grow faster than they might otherwise. Whilst these products are not cheap, they definitely are well worth purchasing and treating as an important step in tree planting.

Once this is all done, the tree can be placed in the planting hole. It’s important to plant the tree so that it is at the same level in the planting hole as it was in the pot, or in the field. If soil is higher than that the tree can easily begin to rot, and will fail, so take time to ensure this is right. Then backfill the planting hole with the soil removed from the hole and firm it in, ensuring the tree is straight. At this point knock a tree stake into the soil at least 6 inches from the tree, at 45 degrees, and use a rubber tree tie to support the tree and keep it in place. The reason 45 degrees rather than straight is suggested is that it gives the plant more opportunity to rock in any winds which over time strengthens the roots and encourages them to go down deep into the subsoil.

At this point, the tree will need water. Plants need the same amount of water as the size of the rootball, so if the tree came out of a 35 litre pot (it will say on the bottom of most pots), it needs at least 35 litres of water. Make sure the rootball gets the water and it doesn’t all flow off to the outside of the planting hole, and then ensure the soil around the plant is still firm.

At this point it’s advisable to mulch around the tree, keeping the mulch away from the trunk. This will ensure the soil remains healthy around the tree and hold in moisture. Mulching can be done with compost or wood chip.

The tree then needs to be regularly watered for at least the first year. This is where many trees fail, as they simply are not given enough water for a long enough time but certainly the first summer is a time of risk for all newly planted trees.

Follow these steps and you’ll have enormous success whenever and where ever  you plant trees going into the future. We’d really love to see your newly planted trees so why not tag us in any tree planting social media posts you publish. We’ll share what we get tagged in!! Happy tree planting everyone.