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Tree Time!

Early winter is the perfect time to plant or move bare rooted trees and shrubs, explains Sue Adams.

Sue has lived in SW France for 15 years and is developing a small field into a garden with orchard, vegetable and soft fruit garden, flower beds, dry garden and a wildlife haven.  It’s still a work in progress.

spring gardening ideas

Sue Adams

Tree Time – The Bare Facts

Bare rooted trees are usually deciduous. They will have been grown in the ground by the nursery and then uplifted and promptly delivered to you with the bare roots exposed for immediate planting.

Trees bought this way tend to be cheaper than container grown ones but, providing you re-plant them while the tree is dormant, they are usually easier to establish, especially if not too mature. The trick is to plant them early enough in the winter for the roots to establish themselves before the tree needs to expend energy on growing leaves.


Choose a bare rooted tree with a generous root structure which spreads in all directions from its base. Check that the roots are not damaged, diseased or dried out.  Replant your chosen tree promptly to keep the roots moist. If this is not possible immediately you will need to heel it in as a temporary measure.  This means keeping your tree with its base in a trench, covering the roots with earth which remains well watered until you can plant the tree properly.

Trees provide beauty all year round

Tree Time – Planting

When ready to plant the tree dig a large hole, at least twice the diameter of the tree’s root network, and remove nearby weeds or grass which could compete for water and nutrients. Incorporate some good quality compost and/or leaf mould into the soil taken from the hole. Put some of this back into the base of the planting hole and then gently check over the tree’s roots, trimming back any which appear to be damaged.

Position the tree in the centre of the hole and then, before you back fill, drive a stake of wood into the hole. Position the stake so that it is at the windward side of the tree (i.e. if the prevailing wind is from the south west put the stake at the south west side of the tree). Now fill the planting hole with the remaining enriched soil. Gently lift/shake the tree while planting it so that the soil level around the base of the planted tree is the same as it was previously.

Once you are happy, and your tree has been firmed in, give it a good water and mulch around (but not right up to) the trunk. Tie the tree to the stake firmly but gently in several places. Don’t use something which could cut into the bark (I use the leg of an old pair of tights) and make sure that the tie cushions the bark from the stake to avoid abrasions. If there’s any risk that deer or rabbits could attack the tree take suitable precautions to provide protection. This needs to be done straight away because, if a tree has had its bark ringed (i.e. eaten all round), it will die above that point.

During the first year water your tree at least every other day and, for the next two years, water it whenever there is a risk it could dry out. Keep the surrounding area free from weeds and encroaching grass. Mulch it each spring and check the stake and the ties regularly. As your tree settles in you may need to prune it to improve the shape and remove dead or crossing branches.

Tree time can continue forever, through the generations to come and helps the environment too.


Planting trees is a wonderful experience

First published in the Nov/Dec issue of The Local Buzz

Images: Shutterstock and Sue Adams