A tree is a beautiful thing. As the oft quoted poet Joyce Kilmer once mused “I think that I will never see, a poem lovely as a tree”.
Trees provide shade for us and for other plants and animals. They offer beauty, fruit, act as natural wind breaks, as climbing frames for our kids and offer many other functions and pleasures. But if you are thinking of planting a new tree, there are some things it is well worth knowing. Take a look at this simple guide to planting and maintaining a healthy young tree.
1. What are you planting for? Shade? Appearance? Abundant fruit? Wood for your stove or fire? Think about what kind of tree you want. Look at your soil and the aspect of your garden, look at the kind of trees that are thriving in your area and choose accordingly.
2. Young trees should generally be planted in winter when they are dormant.
3. Think very carefully about where you plant your tree. Put it in a good place for both you and the tree. Remember the roots of trees generally stretch a long way. Place your tree too close to the kitchen wall without thinking it through and a joy now could become a destructive menace in ten years time.
4. Do use a stake to assist your tree in the first period of growing. Stakes will act like splints to help steady a tree and help it grow. Check your stakes to make sure they are secure to avoid root damage from too much swaying or movement from strong winds when the tree is young.
5. The ties you use to attach the tree to the stake need to be checked regularly to make sure they are secure (for the same reason as the stakes) but also make sure they are loosened as the tree grows to allow it to develop naturally.
6. It is worth putting some kind of circular collar type protection around the bottom of the tree when it is developing. Use a plastic tin, whatever, something that can completely surround the bottom of the tree. These stop dogs, foxes and other pests from vandalising the base of the tree.
7. Water newly planted trees in spring and summer (April through May). It is almost impossible to over water a young tree and, perhaps surprisingly to some people, they are going to need watering for three to five years
8. Avoid evaporation by watering early or late in the day not the middle of the day.
9. A six foot 'standard' tree needs at least 30 litres per week.
10. Mulch around the bottom of your tree with loose wood chippings or leaf mould. This helps to prevent weeds which can steal precious nutrients and water. It also helps retain water so the tree gets more of the available liquid. Mulch should have max depth of 10-15 cm. Any more and the generated heat could damage the roots
Factfile: For more information on tree care, why not check out the Forestry Commission - looking after trees for almost a century, or, alternatively try the Woodland Trust. Both these organisations have information and advice on tree care.