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How to plant a tree in the ground

Few things can create that sense of pride like seeing a plant bloom and blossom over the years. And when it comes to planting trees – depending on the type you choose and how quickly it grows – you could enjoy a well-established variety in just a few short years. 

In this guide, our arborealists explain all there is to know about how to plant a tree in the ground, as well as some general maintenance tips and recommendations for tree varieties, and tools to get the job done. 

Types of tree

First, it’s a good idea to work out what kind of tree you’ll want to install in the first place. Just like you’d research a pet breed before buying, it’s sensible to do the same with trees. That way, you can be sure you’re getting the right type for your space and that it meets your needs. A few things you might want to think about are:

  • How quickly the tree grows
  • Whether it’s an evergreen tree
  • The size the tree can get (versus your space) 
  • Growing conditions (i.e. weather and soil)
  • Your neighbour’s thoughts
  • Light and shade in your garden
  • Planting location and plant competition 

Bear in mind that many trees produce flowers, fruits or even cones, which in turn can attract wildlife (sometimes unwanted!) to your garden. 

Planting 101

After you’ve chosen a tree, you’ll next need to think about the time of year that’s best for planting. Generally, this is between autumn and early spring (think November to March), however, ensure the ground isn’t waterlogged or frozen.

Most trees grow well in an open, sunny space, but fruit trees (particularly citrus ones) need careful planning to ensure the best conditions for the best crop. If you’ve got a small garden or a yard, choose a tree that grows well in a container, or one that can be moved in bad weather.

Finally, be aware of any boundaries or buildings that could cause a problem as your tree grows. 

What you’ll need

Here’s a quick list of equipment you’ll need for tree installation, and what each is used for:

  • Fork for preparing the soil
  • Spade for digging a hole 
  • Bucket of water for soaking the roots
  • Stake, mallet and tree tie for planting
  • Tree guard to protect the bark
  • Watering can to water
  • Bark chippings for feeding the tree

If you need advice on what to choose, our arborealists will be happy to help.

Preparing the ground

Ahead of tree installation, keep your tree in an upright position and in a spot that’s sheltered from windy or frosty weather. You can keep it moist by spraying it with water now and then (particularly important for the roots). Once you’re ready, just follow these simple steps:

Step 1: ‘X’ marks the spot

To get the perfect location, mark the ground. You can use something natural (like a stone or pine cone) or even paint. 

Step 2: Weed it out

Take care of any long grass, weeds or unwanted plants in the area first. Plants – including trees – compete for light, water and nutrients, so you want to create the perfect environment for yours to grow. 

Step 3: It’s all in the numbers 

If you’re planting more than one tree – regardless of whether they’re the same species – you don’t want to overcrowd your space as again, this creates competition. Experts recommend:

  • Planting 1-5m apart, depending on space
  • Using a ‘wavy’ line for a more natural look
  • Planting 30cm apart for a hedge, and considering double rows

At TreesUK, we can offer a tree planting service, advice on planting fruit trees and much more.

How to plant your tree

On the day of tree installation, follow these steps. 

  1. Dig a hole three times wider than your tree’s rootball, and about the same depth. 
  2. Dip your tree into your bucket of water, which helps to soften the soil, feed the plant and loosen any roots.
  3. Position your tree, pressing down on the soil as you plant it to ensure it’s nicely compacted. 
  4. Hammer in your tree stake with a mallet, giving your new tree some support.
  5. Add your tree guard and sprinkle mulch around the base. 
  6. Finally, water well.

Tree maintenance

Once your tree has been planted, provided you’ve watered it regularly for the first couple of years, it will take care of itself. But some trees – especially fruit-bearing ones – will need a little extra TLC, like pruning, feeding and giving protection during frosty weather. That’s where our arborealists come in. If you’ve a tree that needs pruning, we can take care of it for you, whether it’s planting fruit trees, our hedge planting service or our large tree planting service. Just get in touch with our team, and see how we could help.

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