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How to Plant a Tree…The Right Way

One of the very few axioms in the world of gardening that’s actually pretty accurate is the one that says ‘the key to growing a great plant is to put a 50-cent specimen in a £5 hole.’ Which basically means that if you’re looking to get the most from anything you decide to plant, you need to get serious when it comes to how you plant it.

Planting a tree might not be rocket science, but this doesn’t mean there isn’t an exact science to it. Quite the opposite, and once you develop an understanding of the science behind tree planting, you’ll be tackling it like a master in no time.

So while there will always be slight variations when dealing with specific species, what follows is a brief overview of the universally applicable steps involved in planting a tree…the proper way:

Dig the Hole

First of all, you are going to need a hole big enough to accommodate the tree you are planting. As a rule of thumb, you should be looking at digging a hole approximately two to three times wider than the tree’s root ball. In terms of depth, you should be looking at a hole that will bury the tree in soil to around the same depth as at the nursery you bought it from.

Place the Tree

Be as gentle as possible when handling the root ball, in order to avoid causing damage that could harm the health of your tree. When the tree is positioned in the hole, think carefully about which side of the tree you would prefer to face in which direction. If the roots are covered in any burlap or twine, remove it once the tree is in the ideal position.

Backfill the Hole

Gently but firmly begin to fill the space around the root ball, packing the soil with the heel of your boot as you go. It needs to be firm enough to hold the tree in place, but not so solid as to prevent or impede the absorption of moisture and key nutrients. During this stage, adding organic matter (eggshells, fruit peels etc.) is strictly optional as evidence as to the benefits of doing so is somewhat inconclusive.

Stake the Tree

While the tree is finding its feet…so to speak…it’s a good idea to ensure that it is firmly staked. When doing so, be sure to tie the trunk of the tree loosely, using two or three stakes to support larger and heavier trees.

Water the Tree

Give the tree a generous drink immediately after it has been planted and continue to do so on a daily basis for a few weeks at least. Watering frequency can be reduced as the roots gradually make their way into the surrounding earth.


Last but not least, it’s important to bear in mind that at the time of planting, fertiliser can potentially be more harmful than helpful. It’s generally advisable to give things at least a year, before getting started with the provision of high quality fertiliser.


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