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Tips for planting a tree

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With Arbour Day around the corner, trees come to mind and the important role they play in our world. Not just their environmental impact but also the sheer joy they bring, from planting them to watching them grow tall and steady and ultimately enjoying the shade they provide.

The tallest tree in the world is a California redwood which stands 116m tall and what a sight that must be!

While most of us don’t have the space to grow such a tree, or the time to enjoy it (a mature redwood forest is between 500 and 1000 years old), we can all contribute in some small way by planting just one tree.

Trees are easy to plant, and once you have decided which tree to plant, then choosing the ideal place to plant does need thoughtful consideration in order for the tree to thrive.

Most trees love full sunlight and others dappled shade.

The roots of most trees are quite shallow at around 2m deep, but depending on the variety, can spread very wide when fully grown and some spread much wider than their canopy.

Usually the best time to plant a tree is spring or early autumn, but some types require a different time of year.

Once you have determined the type of tree, learnt its size and the depth and width of its root system, it’s time to plant.

  • Dig a hole as deep as the root ball and at least twice as wide. The wider the better as this allows the roots to easily spread in its search for food and water.
  • Remove any grass growing around the hole by about half a metre in diameter. While growing, it’s best for the tree not to have to compete with weeds and grass.
  • Fill the hole with water the day before you intend planting. If the hole is still full, then the spot is not suitable as lack of drainage will kill the tree.
  • Having kept the root ball well watered, remove the tree from its container.
  • Set on the soil in the hole and spread out the roots around the trunk, removing any damaged ones and setting the roots onto the soil.
  • Add the soil back making sure the crown is at soil level or just above and the tree is straight.
  • Firm the soil well and create a depression so water will pool there. You can push down the soil with your foot but watch you don’t stomp on the root ball.
  • Water as soon as you are finished planting. If the soil settles you can add more soil but don’t use your feet to firm down while the soil is wet.
  • Once you are happy the tree is straight, has soil just below its crown and is well watered, then add some compost on top of the soil and slightly beyond the hole you dug and add mulch.
  • Brush back any compost and mulch from the trunk.
  • Only stake if absolutely necessary and remove stakes and ties after about a year.
  • Young trees need regular watering, weeding and fertilising.

The most important step once you have brought your new tree home, is to not let the root ball dry out. This applies during storing the tree, while preparing the hole, planting it and giving the tree its first watering in its (hopefully) final place in life.

Reasons to plant a tree:

  • Releases oxygen through its truck and leaves and often referred to as the ‘lungs of the planet’.

  • Cleans air by intercepting airborne particulates by trapping them on its leaves and bark.

  • Preserves soil by preventing soil erosion through its web of roots.

  • Conserves water by providing shade and decreasing evaporation.

  • Supports wildlife by providing shelter, nesting and food.

  • Sequesters and stores carbon dioxide decreasing the concentration of greenhouse gases.

  • Cools the planet through shading and releasing water vapour through its leaves.

  • Reduces energy use of a home or office by up to 30% when planted properly around a building.

  • Builds humus from fallen leaves which turn into nutrients for the tree and surrounds.

They make us happy by reducing stress as its impossible not to look at nature and smile!

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