First of all, thank you. Planting a tree can be both satisfying and beneficial for you, your community and your local wildlife now and for many years to come, but please take a little time to consider tree species and location as these two things are crucial to the trees health and your peace of mind.
Species selection –
The species of tree you choose should not just be a tree you like (or can afford). Consider the following:
- Soil – Do you have clay soil or sandy soil? Is the area prone to water logging or becoming excessively dry? Choosing a tree that meets your soil type is the probably the most important step to ensuring your tree will have optimum growth. For example, planting a tree that likes well draining soil into a heavy clay will cause it to struggle, providing little growth and maybe even killing the tree. At the bottom of the article are a few trees that will thrive in clay soils.
- Habit – The term ‘habit’ refers to the size and shape of a species or variety of species. Is the tree you wish to plant going to be tall or very wide? Is the canopy, once mature, going to be dense? Will the tree be messy in terms of leaf drop, fruit or flowers? Even though a tree may look innocent when stood in it’s pot at the garden centre it is well worth thinking to the future. More on this in below.
As an arborist I have spent the last 14 years removing perfectly healthy and attractive trees for the fact that they have been planted in the wrong place. The cute, knee-high Eucalyptus planted one metre from the boundary fence and five metres from your house will, in time, become a fence wrecking, neighbour annoying giant that looms over your house (especially on the windy days) and will require the services of a qualified tree surgeon to either heavily prune or remove the tree. It is heart breaking for the conscientious tree surgeon and often costly for the tree owner, not to mention the poor tree itself. Consider:
- Space – Plant the tree in a location where, in 30 years time, it will not encroach heavily on your neighbour or swallow your house.
- Light – Consider the tree in relation to your windows. In full leaf most tree canopies can be very dense and let little light through.
- View – When fully grown, make sure the tree is not going to block views for either you or your neighbours.
By following these three things you can avoid having a tree that will become an annoyance, burden or risk to you in the future. Also, by getting the right tree you avoid having to heavily prune the tree as it grows too large, in turn running the risk of compromising the trees health, safety and aesthetic (see the topping article). Remember that the most beautiful trees are the trees most natural in size and shape.
Planting methods –
- Planting – The most important consideration in planting trees is the planting depth. Don’t plant too deep. It is better to plant in a raised manner so the roots will not drown or suffocate, and avoid the soil level being higher than the root collar (where the roots begin at the base of the trunk). Strip away turf and dig the planting hole 2 to 3 times wider than the rootball and at the same depth. It’s usually a good idea to add bonemeal and, or a little compost mixed with the soil that was taken from the hole to give the young tree a good start. Try to avoid any air pockets when back filling the hole by lightly healing in the soil and watering thoroughly.
- Staking – Be sure to stake your tree if there is any risk of it falling over due to wind or simply being top heavy. There are a number of ways in which you can tie the tree to the stake but it is advisable to use purpose made tree ties. Most importantly, remove the stake once the tree has established itself. This may take a few months or a couple of years depending on the tree’s size, exposure and root structure. See the image to the right for an idea of how to stake a tree correctly.
With a little forethought you will plant a tree that is very well suited to it’s location. That tree will grow with you and will become a unique thing of beauty to be admired by you and those around you.
Trees suitable for wet clay soils as recommended by the RHS –
Deciduous – Acer palmatum (Japanese Maple), Betula Sp. (Birch), Crataegus Sp. (Hawthorne), Eucalyptus Sp., Sorbus Sp., Salix Sp. (Willow)
Evergreen – Abies Sp., Chamaecyparis lawsoniana (Lawson Cypruss), Picea Sp., Juniper Sp.
Ask your local garden centre or search online for places to purchase these trees.
For further help with tree planting please contact us.
Happy planting, Ben.