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How to Plant A Tree: The Complete Guide

Published on November 29th 2020
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If you're looking to spruce up your garden this National Tree Week, you're in the right place. Tree planting experts the Community Forest Trust have put together their complete instructions on how to plant a tree, from choosing the right variety to watering it in.
Candide's horticultural expert and long time nursery owner Alan Down has also put together a couple of videos on the best ways to plant bare-root trees. You can head over to our youtube channel to learn more from the master, including how to plant pot grown apple trees.

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Which tree should you plant?

A tree ‘whip’ is a young tree between 0.5m and 1m tall. You can plant either bare root or cell grown whips which will need to be planted between November and March so they can become established in spring.
For the benefit of wildlife, try to plant native tree species and take into consideration which species are already common in the local area.
We've also put together a list of our top five favourite garden trees that you can check out here:
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Top Five Trees to Plant in Your Garden


Choosing where to plant your tree

Where you plant a tree will depend on the growing conditions that the species prefers. For example, alder prefer wet conditions and hazel can tolerate shaded areas.
Tree whips should generally be planted in areas free from canopy cover and with sufficient space to grow. Before planting on any land that you do not own, seek landowner permission.
Materials you will need:
  • Tree whips
  • Spade + fork
  • Boots
  • Mulch mat and 5 pegs (optional)
  • Tree guard
  • Tree stake and tie (optional)
If you are planting an area of woodland, make sure tree whips are at least 2m apart and planted in a natural pattern rather than rows.
If you are planting a hedge, plant trees in two staggered rows with approximately 0.5m between the rows and 0.5m between trees.

Tree planting steps

  1. Dig a square hole deep and wide enough to contain the roots. The soil surface should come to around 1cm above where the roots begin.
  2. Push the cane into the ground approximately 10cm from where you plan to put the tree.
  3. Place the tree in the hole and crumble in the soil, breaking up any large clumps. Any turf can be placed in the bottom of the hole upside down to stop it growing back.
  4. Gently press the soil down to compact it and make sure the roots are fully covered. Give the whip a gentle tug to make sure it’s properly planted – if it can be pulled out you will need to replant.
  5. Position the mulch mat around the base of the tree and cane and secure with the pegs.
  6. Carefully place the tree guard over the tree and secure to the cane.
  7. Spread a generous amount of mulch around the base of the tree. Make sure that there is a mulch free area of around 10cm at the base of the tree so that when it breaks down it does not cause the stem to rot.
Whilst it is recommended that you use the planting accessories (e.g. mulch mat), whether this is appropriate will depend on the location. If you don’t want to use the mats, guards and canes, a good layer of mulch will help keep weeds at bay and provide nutrients for your young trees.
A person planting a tree in the ground

Tree planting aftercare

  • In dry weather, make sure trees are watered regularly
  • Keep the immediate area around trees free of weeds by manually weeding or mulching
  • You may need to prune the trees to maintain a certain size and shape or if branches become damaged

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