Planting and Maintaining Trees

Preparation of Sites and Planting

To ensure rapid establishment and satisfactory growth of trees it is essential to prepare each site by taking out a hole for each tree (of normal nursery size) at least 3 ft. in diameter and 1 ½ ft. deep. If in the course of this preparation, chalk, gravel, sand, clay or poor subsoil is encountered, this should be excavated and replaced by good topsoil imported if necessary for the purpose. On poor soils a bucketful of well-rotted farmyard manure dug into the bottom of the hole is a worthwhile addition. Ideally this work should be done well in advance of planting, the holes being temporarily filled back. At planting time remove the loose soil to the depth of about 1 ft. and thoroughly firm the soil remaining in the hole. Before attempting to plant, position

a stout stake (2 to 3-in, diameter), driving the pointed and preserved end 1 ½ to 2 ft. into the ground. Position the tree against the stake, well spreading the root system. Fill back with a mixture of topsoil and moist peat, shaking the tree gently to work the soil among the root fibres, leaving no air spaces. It is most important to firm the tree very thoroughly using the full weight of the body behind the heel. Ensure that the finished level of planting corresponds with the previous soil mark near the base of the stem.

tree planting

Finally, secure the tree to the stake using purpose-made tree ties, one at the very top of the stake where it should terminate immediately below the head and one half way down the stem, in the case of standard trees. Lighter stakes and ties may be sufficient for smaller feathered trees while extra heavy standards may require a stake either side of the trunk, the tree being secured between them with a wooden cross-piece or rubber belting. Large-headed, semi-mature trees need guying, using galvanized wire hausers and wooden plugs driven into the ground.

Maintenance and Aftercare

Intelligent maintenance and attention to watering is very necessary and need not be arduous and time consuming.

If there is a drought in the spring or early summer, when a newly moved tree is in greatest need of moisture at the roots, then it is certainly worth the application of at least two bucketfuls of water per standard tree per week. Those trees set in grass are at greater risk as they have to compete with the grass for all available food and moisture. A cultivation area at least 3 ft. in diameter should be maintained free of grass or weeds for the first three years following planting. A mulch of peat, strawy manure, well-rotted leaves or

pulverized bark-fibre, applied to moist ground, is a useful means of both conserving essential moisture and maintaining the cultivation area in a clean condition.

Once the tree is fully established, bulbs — winter aconites (eranthis), grape hyacinths (muscari), snowdrops (galanthus) etc. — may be added or one of the many ground-cover plants — lesser periwinkle (Vinca minor), green and variegated forms of ivy (hedera), hardy geranium, or ladies’ mantle (alchemilla) — may be installed in the cultivated area. Not only is this an additional attraction, but such a planting helps to ensure that the base of the tree is not subjected to repeated wounding by the lawn mower — a distressing complaint I see all too often in both private gardens and public plantings!

If the bottom 2-1 ft. of the stake has been stripped of bark and dipped in a preservative such as Green Cuprinol (not creosote please), the stake should last until the tree is firmly anchored and is growing well; but the tree ties will require annual adjustment as the stem expands. This amounts to the loosening of a buckle or the refixing of rubber belting to allow the stem to grow without restriction.


As the newly planted tree develops, some pruning is usually necessary to maintain a balanced and well-spaced head of branches with the leading shoot carefully

preserved. This generally involves the removal or shortening back of badly placed or crossing branches and superfluous growth. When the trunk has developed to reasonable proportions, the tree should begin to assume the shape and outline characteristic of its species or variety. In later years, some further thinning of superfluous growth from the head may be necessary periodically.

The trees described are considered suitable for a wide range of conditions in European and North American gardens. Most are also appropriate for South African and Australasian conditions. Attention is drawn in the text to those subjects succeeding only in mild or maritime conditions, otherwise most can be considered hardy in all but the most extreme climates involving cold and exposure.

Ultimate Sizes

The mature height of a tree will vary according to the soil, degree of shading, amount of rainfall etc. However, in the British Isles and in countries with similar climates, the following measurements may serve as a guide to the range of anticipated eventual growth of trees growing under average garden conditions: small trees, 12 to 30 ft. ; medium trees, 30 to 50 ft. ; large trees, over 60 ft. Some indication is given in the following descriptions of expected shape or spread of head of the trees listed which should assist in the selection of a tree for a particular site.

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