Tree Planting Guidelines

Tree Planting Guidlines

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Bare Root Tree Planting Advice

There are many videos on YouTube that show different ways of planting bare-rooted trees, (in fact we couldn’t find one single clip that gave a full enough example of best practice). But after some searching, we found that one (linked below) that is quite close to how we plant our trees here at Deer Wood.

BEFORE PLANTING. It is vital to keep the tree roots protected and moist at all times before and during planting, so please keep them safely tucked up in their bag until the hole is dug and they are ready to go into the ground, especially if it is windy as this can dry the roots out and damage them quite quickly.

  1. Your tree roots will arrive with a layer or even clumps of woodland soil intact. Do not wash any of this off your roots! This medium is full of natural woodland soil organisms not usually found in most field locations and will inoculate your planting hole with a very vital array of beneficial micro-organisms important to root and tree health.

If for whatever reason you can't plant your trees straight away, then they will need to be removed from the bag and temporarily “heeled in” at an angle in a trench with loose soil or compost to protect and keep the roots moist- this will suffice for a short while. We do not often recommend drenching by submersion unless the roots have obviously dried out. Spritzing them will keep them moist without losing any of the beneficial soil.

tree planting

HOLE DIGGING. Depending on the size of the tree you are planting you have a choice of 2 techniques: For smaller trees whip size with less roots, you can create a Notch in the ground using a strong spade and open a fairly small hole with a single plunge and forward and back wiggle to open a hole into which you can carefully insert the roots and tease them down inside. For bigger specimens- standards with larger roots, a proper hole will need to be dug generously deep and wide enough to accommodate all the roots.

NB.1 If you are planting into a field location that has historically been cultivated with heavy machinery (even if it was a long time ago) the ground is likely to have a compacted layer of Pan below the surface. If this is likely then dig the hole to depth and then break through the pan beneath with a spike, bar or pick so that the trees' taproots can find a way down through to the deeper groundwater beneath.

NB.2 With all holes we recommend removing any foreign object that you may find when you dig it. This includes plastic, metal and larger bits of old roots and logs etc.

NB.3 It is only necessary with native and woodland trees to add either well-rotted leaf mould or non- peat-based compost mixed into your soil as an amelioration and improver if it is poor, high clay content or very stony.


STAKING. The size of stakes is a standard 4ft. Once the hole is prepped, drive the stake into it, off-centre before the tree goes in. This is very important because it can damage the roots if driven into the root zone after they are covered. (When positioning the stake offer the tree up so that stake and stem are close enough to tie, then drive the stake before you bury the roots.)

PLANTING. Which-ever type of hole you have made it is important to make sure that all the cavities around the roots are filled with soil so that there are no air gaps down there, this is best done with some deft finger action gentle root tickling. The soil should be replaced firmly but not overly compacted. If you are planting on quite a steep site then take some time to make sure that the area of ground immediately around each tree is a level platform that so water will not always run off from a key strategy to help prevent drying out in the summer months.


SECURING. There are several different types of tree ties available- We like the soft but strong and flexible recycled material ones, you may need to nail or screw it to the stake to prevent it from sliding down.


PROTECTION. Spiral guards and bamboo canes are fine for the smaller whips. Our favourite guard for our larger trees is a 4 or 5-foot mesh guard that comes on a roll and can be cut to suit each individual tree’s form. It is good to know what potential grazers your tree is likely to encounter when deciding on the height of protection, -deer have the tallest reach, so if unsure opt for the tallest. Another type of guard are tubes- these are not the best for our trees though, because the tube diameter is narrow, so quite a considerable amount of branches may need removing (not necessarily a problem if not done too heavily). It is also not a bad idea in most locations to consider special vole guards as well, as it is very frustrating to find a tree that has been damaged or killed below grass level due to small rodents.

MULCH. To prevent rapid soil moisture loss during dry spells and help suppress weeds you should use either a “mulch mat” (both synthetic or biodegradable are available). But we find that composted wood chip or bark mulch is best as eventually, it will rot down into good organic matter around the tree.

WATERING. Winter planting of bare rooted trees in the South West does not always require immediate watering (unless unusually dry winter period). But during hot or long dry spells in spring and summer to prevent losses, they will need water to get to them for the first year or 2 at least.


The link below is quite a good example, not too different from the method we use-

*Please note that the main thing missing from this video is the tree guard, which is essential to put on as it prevents gazers from destroying all the bark, which ultimately kills the tree.


marc watering

Good luck and successful tree planting



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